I've seen some sentiment to the effect that the Lakers' collapse in Game 4 "proves" the invalidity of comparisons between Kobe and Michael Jordan. That seems silly. The reason comparisons are illegitimate is that Jordan was clearly a much better player.
Kobe Bryant's a great scorer, and in his highest-scoring season (2008) he earned 35.4 points per game. But Jordan scored 37.1 ppq in 1987. And Jordan did it by shooting more efficiently, with a TS% of .562 to .559 for Kobe. In terms of scoring efficiency, Kobe's best season was 2007 when his TS% was .580, but Jordan bested that five times (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1996). In Kobe's best rebounding year (2003), he got 6 per game, which Jordan bested in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, and 2003 and tied in 1991. Kobe topped out at 5.3 assists per game in 2005. Jordan got more in 1985, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993. Kobe's best year for turnovers was 2002 when he only gave it up 2.6 times per game. Jordan did better in 1986, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2003.
There's just no comparison, and it shouldn't be considered some huge knock on Kobe to observe that he was and is a clearly inferior player to the best player ever. I feel like even though Jordan is generally acknowledged as the greatest, people actually wind up underestimating him because the Jordan they remember best is the Jordan of the second threepeat. But that player, great as he was, was in his thirties and only a shadow of the peak-performance Jordan of the late-1980s and early 1990s.
UPDATE: Consider that in the 1988-89 season Jordan averaged eight boards, eight assists, three steals, and 32.5 points per game shooting 54 percent from the field and 85 percent on free throws; Kobe's never put up anything remotely comparable to that.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.