So my friend Dario, who forever puts himself at the forefront of controversy when it comes to basketball just to annoy me I have no doubt, got me riled up again. He decided to create an argument for Kobe being better than Jordan even though he doesn’t believe it himself. His argument in a nutshell was that; the game has changed; players as well as the rules, Jordan’s competition wasn’t up to par with the new generation of player and Jordan had more help with Scottie (I assume he’s only referring to the current championship run, cause not many will argue Scottie being better than Shaq.) I posted a comment at his invitation that turned into a blog. So now I get to share it with the world so people can stop this inane argument for once and for all.
Now while it’s true I’m not a fan of Kobe’s and I have always been very critical of him, I am an objective person when it comes to things I think about more than a fleeting whimsical thought. I cheered for Kobe this year and I’m definitely starting to like him more now than before. But I will say with my whole heart and soul he is not better than Jordan.
1. Think about this honestly because a lot of people who want to make a case for Kobe are only doing it because of his similarity to Jordan. But in all honesty, how many people think Kobe is better than Magic Johnson… or even Akeem Olajuwan? If there had never been a Jordan I think there would be an argument about who the best player ever is. Some people would still say Magic, some would say Bird, some would even say Kareem, some would say Kobe and everyone would have a reasonable argument. If you care to remember before Jordan started winning championships people would make arguments for a lot of players as best ever. And then what happened? Jordan shut all that dumb shit down. He decided he wasn’t going to lose anymore (Winning 6 Finals MVP’s which may not ever be matched by anyone, regardless of how many rings Kobe ends up with) and negated all reasonable arguments against him as the best player ever. Even people who don’t like Jordan have to admit he’s the best ever. People who don’t like Kobe will never have to do such a thing. A) because he has not made that same mark that Jordan did, B) because he’s actually just not as good. So reason number one why Kobe is not better than Jordan. You can’t say Kobe is the best ever when there’s room for a reasonable argument that he’s not even the best in his own current era, much less of all time. Where as Jordan is at the top of everyone’s list on a matter as subjective as this.
2. What is not taken into effect in considering the era of competition is what makes Jordan so very indomitable.
Now you can say whatever you want to about the skill level of athletes today as opposed to yeasteryear. But obviously people will be more skilled as the generations pass. Back in the day if you were a big man it was mandatory to have a back to the basket game. Now big men have to be able to make an 18 foot jumpshot to get the other big men away from the goal. Zydrunas Illgauskas has a better skill set than Patrick Ewing as far as his basketball I.Q. and what his rating would be on NBA Live in all the categories. But I don’t think a single person in the world believes for a second he’s a better player.
Because skills don’t translate into wins….Will power and determination do.
Back when Jordan was playing, the determining factor for being an elite player was wanting to win. Jordan was up against it all the time with players, who he kept down, who wanted really badly to win. Before that he was being kept down by the Pistons and the Celtics, two teams with fierce leaders who wanted nothing more than to win every game of basketball they played, and made their team mates share that sentiment or find a spot on another roster. If Isaiah Thomas didn’t like his team what do you think is more likely, he would demand a trade, or he would demand the front office to get better players? Or Bird, or Magic, Or Ewing, or Olajuwan, or any of these players who spent the majority of their career with one team? But nowadays everybody who feels like they can’t win where they’re playing is looking to jump ship and get to a “contender.” They want the quick fix. Find me a team that’s ready to win now and I’ll go contribute to that, as opposed to put a team around me and I will make them a champ. Kobe being the worst of all of them because he demanded that a championship team be broken up only to become unsatisfied with it and demand that another be structured in its place or be traded. But the point is these NBA players may have more skills they can go to individually but few have a burning will to win as the players in Jordan’s era. Reggie Miller was the most clutch shooter ever. And the only year he ever got a sniff of a ring was when Jordan was long gone. Patrick Ewing made it to two NBA finals in spite of the Knicks being one of the best teams in the Eastern conference year in and year out for over a decade. Both of these were in non-Jordan years. The Pacers that took two games from the Lakers (Kobe & Shaq and much better role players) in the finals would have beaten this Lakers team 4 games to 1. This is what Jordan was up against just to get to the Finals. Then when he got there he had to deal with players like the afore mentioned Karl Malone who would, as Moses said, crack a mother******* skull for coming in the lane stupid, cause he wanted to win so bad. Who did Kobe have to go through? Deron Williams (formidable, but not in anyone’s conversation as being a great winner since the Jazz are always a 7th seed first round exit) Louis Scola and Shane Battier, and then Carmello (Bernard King comparison from earlier) and Chauncey who is a legitimate winner. Only to get to the Finals and face…..Hedo Turkoglu. LOL!!! C’mon bruh…Hedo. This is the insurmountable gauntlet to championship glory? You gotta be kidding. Jordan was playing teams in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs that could beat the Magic. The only reason they made it to the Finals was because KG was hurt and Lebron’s team stepped their games down for the first time all year (probably a coaching flaw, or maybe a lack of toughness from Lebron to his teammates who wanted to win for him, but weren’t scared of his wrath if they lost.) Kobe is only one of three or four superstar players in the NBA right now with any legitimate will to win. Manu and Duncan are old and decaying, KG was hurt, Lebron took the high road and was a nice guy to his teammates instead of the asshole that Kobe and Jordan are. And then what else? A case can be made for Chauncey, D. Wade. That’s about it. Kobe had to deal with only one of those factors this year. I’m getting a little long winded on this point. But I will digress now with this, Skill sets don’t mean shit if losing doesn’t hurt.
3. And this is probably my most definitive argument for this; the only reason that Kobe can exist is BECAUSE of Jordan. Kobe got a head start on basketball because he got to absorb all of Jordan’s knowledge. Kobe is definitely a basketball prodigy. He has an understanding and feel for the game that is like Mozart on the piano. He was able to study Jordan and the game around Jordan and internalize that so well he was almost able to pick up where Jordan left off. That is admirable and almost miraculous. BUT, while exceptional it isn’t transcending. The mark of a great player is that he has to raise the bar. Bill Russel did it. Wilt did it. In the 70’s basketball was divided and no one was really doing it. Jerry West and Kareem were good, but they weren’t doing anything Havilchek and Wilt didn’t do before them. Oscar Robertson did it statistically, but I can’t say how much impact it had because it didn’t translate to too much winning. Then after the 70’s Magic and Bird did it together. They revived the NBA. That’s how you raise the bar. So with the NBA revived how can you possibly raise that bar?
He raised the bar so high he made himself unequivocally the best ever. He changed the game and brought about the likes of a Kobe. His game was so good that even having watched an entire Vince Carter career, which was probably more fantastic than Dr J, We have to think of him as an underachiever because he’s always gonna be stuck being compared to Jordan. Think about that for a second… how many people have come into the league and failed at basketball simply because they couldn’t measure up to a Kobe comparison? But there are no Kobe comparisons. Is it because Kobe’s too good and no one compares? No. It’s because Kobe is still trying to live up to the Jordan comparison. He can’t raise the bar past where Jordan got it even though he picked it up where Jordan left it. Kobe has not changed the game, and he probably wont. And while I do feel like he is better than Lebron right now. I also feel like Lebron has the ability to be better than Jordan because he can change the game of basketball as we know it. I mean a 6’8 270 lb truck playing the wing has already changed it somewhat. For an example let’s take it out of basketball context. I earlier compared Kobe’s basketball intuition to Mozart. This, while an accurate comparison in terms of capabilities, is inaccurate in terms of application. Mozart could interpret music and did something with it no one ever did before. Shakespeare did things with writing no one ever did before. These are game changers. Jordan is a game changer. Magic and Bird are game changers. Bill Russel? Game changer. Kobe simply listened to all the music Jordan composed and recycled it. No interesting spin on it, no re-interpretation. No unique vision. Just the same old tune spun back out. I’m not saying that it wouldn’t have been cool to just have another Martin Luther King. That would be great. But you know what’s even better…? Having a Barack Obama who takes the mantle left by MLK and RAISES THE BAR. That’s a game changer.