Blogtable: Assessing impact of Popovich, Kobe on their teams and NBA at large

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: On Popovich & Kobe’s careers | Clippers-Warriors rivalry | Who will shoot it the most?

VIDEOGregg Popovich takes the Spurs through a preseason practice

> Kobe Bryant begins his 20th season with the Los Angeles Lakers just as Gregg Popovich enters his 20th season as coach of the San Antonio Spurs. Both are shoo-in picks for the Hall of Fame, both have accomplished a ton, but who has made the bigger impact on their franchise? And on the league?

Steve Aschburner, Popovich is my answer to both questions. Kobe Bryant ranks as one of the top 10 players in NBA history, yet there hasn’t been anything particularly original about him. Popovich, on the other hand, has shaped NBA tactics and NBA culture, while presiding over an era in San Antonio that wouldn’t have happened without him, even if Tim Duncan had landed there to team with David Robinson. The Spurs’ all-in embrace of international players, the beauty and effectiveness of their performance in the 2014 Finals, the harsh light Popovich shined on the schedule and need for rest all influenced the league. The Lakers, meanwhile, already had traditions of winning and of employing legendary players — why do you think it was so important for Bryant to leverage his way there when he was drafted?

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comYou forgot to mention that they both have five championships on their resume. Of course, as Pop would be the first to point out, it’s the players that play the game. However, in terms of lasting impact on the franchise, the Lakers had a long history of winning championships and as NBA royalty — George Mikan, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson — long before Bryant arrived on the scene. But Pop and Tim Duncan brought championship basketball to San Antonio. Pop’s influence to the league extends from his pioneering penchant for digging up and utilizing international talent from every corner of the globe.  His management of his roster — i.e. rationing minutes played and simply giving players nights off throughout — has spread throughout the NBA and even led to an overall effort from the commissioner’s office to cut down on back-to-back games in the schedule. No slight to Kobe, but Pop gets the nod here.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThat’s nearly an impossible split. Maybe the answer comes down not to Kobe and Pop, but what to what happened before they arrived as perspective on what the following 20 years would mean. The Lakers had decades of pre-Bryant winning. He was a continuation. Popovich, though, had the largest role in defining the Spurs. He was the builder. In that regard, he has had the bigger impact on the franchise. And if there is the case as the No. 1 person in the history of an entire organization, then it follows that he had a bigger impact on the league as well. Plus, it’s just fun that it will bother him to be put on that pedestal.

Shaun Powell, Kobe, and that’s no knock on Popovich. But Kobe is a player instead of a coach, is/was far more marketable (ticket sales, sneaker sales, TV ratings) and directly impacted games whereas Popovich put players in position to win. Too bad Kobe is so emotionally attached to the Lakers, because I’d love to see him sign as a free agent with the Spurs and play for Pop.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comWhile Bryant has influenced a lot of players who watched him growing up, Popovich has influenced players, coaches and even executives around the league who have spent time in San Antonio. That will be a longer lasting legacy and a more positive one. Players may want to be like Kobe, and there are a few in this league that have clearly been influenced by him. But his shot selection and me-first approach to offense doesn’t work without his rare combination of elite talent and relentless work ethic.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comGreat question. They both will leave indelible marks on the game, for obviously different reasons. You can make the argument that Pop belongs in the conversation as the best coach in NBA history. And Kobe is going to make the list of the top 10 players in NBA history most every time. But when you talk about impacting a franchise, specifically, it’s hard to imagine one man doing more for a franchise than what Popovich has done for the Spurs (and, to a large extent, the rest of the league — considering his always-growing coaching family tree). San Antonio became a championship outfit on his watch (courtesy of Tim Duncan, of course). The Spurs’ championship legacy will live on with Pop playing the role of architect, which lasts for eternity. Kobe went to a franchise that had already gone through its golden, championship era. There was already an established standard (thanks to Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers and Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain and others before them) in place. Kobe electrified the franchise, no doubt, and still stirs a rabid fan base, but it had been done before.

Ian Thomsen, Bryant made the biggest impact on his franchise, and Popovich would be the first to say so: He would tell you that players win championships more so than coaches. The same goes for their impact on the league: Kobe has created more fans around the world, sold more tickets and made more plays than any coach. For all that Popovich has accomplished — winning five championships in a small market while creating the league’s model franchise, one whose values are mimicked repeatedly — his plans have succeeded because they’ve been embraced and implemented by Tim Duncan. If we were comparing him to rival coaches, then Popovich would be the clear winner of this discussion. But it isn’t right to say that he has meant more than Kobe, in the same way that no one would argue that Phil Jackson made a greater impact than Michael Jordan.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog While they are both cantankerous and fantastic, they are apples and oranges, with at least one tremendous similarity. I would say that Gregg Popovich has had more of an impact on his franchise, as he took over a team that had existed for 31 seasons without a title and racked up four rings in the next 18 seasons. Pop also provided a blueprint for how small market teams can compete and win titles in the modern era. You can argue that Kobe’s impact on the Lakers has been as massive, although the Lakers have had a murderer’s row of legends (Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, George Mikan, Shaquille O’Neal, etc.) which makes Kobe’s road to the top of that Mt. Rushmore a much tougher road. That said, I’d argue that Kobe has had more of an impact on the League than Pop has, as Kobe has provided a blueprint for how swingmen in the NBA’s post-Jordan era can be successful.


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  12. tl says:

    definitely kobe… like iverson once said, kobe is a GENERATIONAL player! he represents an important period of the NBA. coach pop definitely contributes a lot to the game, but kobe is a more important figure to the NBA history.

    50 years from now, people who aren’t nba experts probably won’t know about pop, but will hear about kobe.

  13. soccerking says:

    The Spur have never won back to bcak championship. Tim, made it to six finals kobe made to seven. How many times did the Spurs get knock off in (WTCF) by kobe lakers? everytime the Spurs make it to the finals is when the lakers don’t have a strong team.

  14. nlitinme says:

    This is a question similar in caliber to CNBC’s at the republican debate…. Pop has had a profound influence on the game and his spurs personify it. The team chemistry- phil would call it a level 5 I think- when you have a sixth sense of awareness, ability to be somewhere on the floor at exactly the right moment- all the time. The dissolution of the selfish properties of the ego, so that selfless play is possible, desirable and motivating. Pop transformed san antonio basketball and has continually made fools out of haters. Kobe? An incredible athlete and one of the all time greats… but he had phil and shaq in the beginning of his NBA career. I think his injuries have humanized him somewhat. I wish things could have been different for him so that his incredible talent and work ethic could have been paired with the skills to make his team better

  15. Jay says:

    Im sorry, but is this really a question, and are we really diminishing Kobes greatness this much to compare him (To a guy who is one of the greatest coaches) to Popovich. Kobe has CHANGED the game, and its disrespectful to compare someone like him to Popovich.

  16. nexsis24 says:

    Kobe hands down…..The Lakers was Successful before Kobe….but to take up the Challenge to Keep that Tradition of Winning a way of life for that Franchise is no easy Task…..Being a Champion,Box Office,setting Scoring records,being Considered the Closest thing to Jordan since Jordan,Marketability,3 peat and an oppurtunity to do it again…..Sorry Pop….You never even won back to back Championships…..Kobe.

  17. Robin Penn says:

    The Lakers were a successful and profitable franchise long before Kobe arrived and will probably continue to be so long after he’s gone. Kobe had the opportunity to make it even more grand by extending the Kobe/Shaq era but didn’t. The Lakers lost some luster until Pau showed up and fully engaged the Latino fans.

  18. purpngold says:

    I have to agree with Ian Thomsen, players win championships. There have been many great coaches throughout the history of the NBA, but the great players throughout the history receive more recognition than do the coaches. Same argument with Kobe and Pop. They both have 5 rings, but who has made the most amazing memorable plays? Who has more fans and recognition globally? The winning culture weather already established and carried on or brought on as a new culture is an equal winning culture. Why is Kobe always being compared to the greatest player to ever play the game? Is Pop compared to the greatest coach to ever coach the game?

  19. LePiv says:

    Ok, what’s the name of whatever Lang Whitaker is smoking?
    First he says that Pop “racked up four rings in the next 18 seasons” … he apparently missed the one from ’99, or ’03, or ’05, or ’07, or ’14 …
    … then he goes on to say that “Kobe has provided a blueprint for how swingmen in the NBA’s post-Jordan era can be successful” when it’s clear that Kobe followed the blueprint that Jordan provided … whatever worked for Jordan in his era is the same thing that worked for Kobe in his and the future era, as long as you have the skills and are willing to put in the work.

  20. Tim in Surrey says:

    The correct answer, of course, is Tim Duncan. I have lots of respect for Pop but it was Duncan who brought the championships to San Antonio, not Popovich. Without Pop the Spurs would still likely have won titles with Robinson and Duncan together. But without Duncan? I don’t think Pop would’ve won any championships with just an ageing Admiral.

  21. weeklysportsworld says:

    I have to agree with Steve Aschburner’s comments regarding the culture he created in the NBA. He was able to sustain a winning culture for 20+ years, while winning 5 championships in the process and making the Spurs one of the most dominating franchises in the NBA.

  22. mac says:

    The correct answer is Tim Duncan.

  23. Sylace Srinivasan says:

    The answer is Simple and its Pop. He created family oriented environment among the players unlike other franchise. He became the father figure for everyone in the team. When a guy like Kwai who is not very outspoken, new to the league, Pop understands the potential and making him shine and Kwai getting the Final MVP defensive player of the year in two years, that is called creating an Impact.

  24. NIck says:

    Kobe has had a greater impact on his team? What, in salary?