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.
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VIDEO: Fan Night crew on Kobe passing Jordan
> The Kobe Bryant-Michael Jordan comparisons have bubbled up again this week, and those two certainly share a lot of similarities. But what is the biggest difference in their games? In their careers?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Kobe Bryant is to Michael Jordan as Vic Damone was to Frank Sinatra. I know that reference is dated, like something left over from Larry King’s dot-dot-dot column for USA Today. But the comparison is apt. Jordan, like Sinatra, was the original, while Bryant, like Damone, was the copy. Skilled, technically proficient, maybe even superior in a talent or two. But not original. Heck, Bryant even mimicked Jordan’s mannerisms, way of speaking, etc., before developing a little more of his own voice and style in recent years. He was just too literal in the “next Michael” thing, meaning we’d been there, seen that with most of his exploits.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: After his high-flying younger days, Jordan developed a mid-range and post-up game that was dependable, deadly and virtually peerless and thrived on it down to that very last Bulls shot over Bryon Russell. Bryant has those same skills, but still tends to take more “hero ball” 3-point shots. At the other end, Jordan was just a better shut-down defender, case closed. You can probably sum up the difference in their careers with two words: Scottie Pippen.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: There are very few differences, one of the reasons it is such a debate. But there are two exceptions in the timeline department: Bryant went to the NBA from high school while Jordan arrived not only with three seasons of college ball, but three seasons at North Carolina with Dean Smith. MJ had the important head start of being more mature and the lessons from a structured program. (Although Bryant was mature far behind his 17 years at the time of the draft. He was focused and a worker.) And, Kobe has played straight through. He didn’t have retirements along the way. He kept stacking big minutes on top of big minutes until he was far ahead of Jordan in that category.
Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Jordan was an above-average defender almost until the end, before his knees were shot. He took pride in making stops and even guarding the other team’s best shooter (Reggie Miller, etc.). His strip of Karl Malone moments before sinking the game-winner for his sixth title remains the most underrated play in league history. Kobe, on the other hand, stopped giving effort on defense years ago. As for their careers, Jordan was much more of a cultural force than Kobe ever was, impacting fashion, endorsements, etc. And he has one more ring.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The biggest difference in their games was on defense, where Jordan was more consistent, especially in regard to off-the-ball focus. Jordan was also a better shooter and more efficient scorer. The biggest difference in their careers was that Jordan was the best player on six championship teams, while Bryant was the best player on two. With MJ, we’ll always wonder what would have happened if he didn’t retire the first time. With Kobe, we’ll wonder how good he could have been if he trusted his teammates a little more.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The biggest difference in their games to me has always come in the commitment on the defensive side of the ball. Jordan played defense the same way he played offense and every other part of the game, like his life depended on him being better at it than anyone else on the floor every night. Kobe has always struck me as a convenient defender, a guy who could go into lock down mode whenever he wanted and has done exactly that for the better part of the past two decades. As for their careers, Jordan was always the alpha dog in the locker room and on the court. Six championships. Six Finals MVPs. And no debate about it. Kobe, by virtue of when he entered the league, was stuck in little brother mode with Shaq and didn’t get his Finals MVP stripes until later.
Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Jordan was the more efficient scorer, which had something to do with the difference in eras. Bryant attempted threes twice as often as his idol, in part because the quality of defense had grown more sophisticated throughout the NBA. During Bryant’s more recent run of contention, the best teams were more talented than the opposition that Jordan faced in the 1990s. Each was a product of the time in which he played.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: To me the most obvious difference is Kobe’s longevity and his ability to play at a very high level even now, in his 19th season. I saw Jordan in 2003 when he was with the Wizards, and sure, he averaged 20 ppg, but he wasn’t as athletic as Kobe is today. Other than that, it’s hard for me to pinpoint differences. They are so similar that it can be uncanny, which isn’t a terrible thing. As my friend Russ Bengtson once wrote, Jordan may have created the blueprint, but Kobe, more than anyone else who was compared to MJ in some way or another, was able to ride the blueprint to the greatest degree of success.
Aldo Avinante, NBA.com/Philippines: In terms of their games, MJ was more of a slasher especially in his younger days and he goes for the most simplest moves to score although they have the same skill set and moves, Kobe opts for the more difficult shot most of the times but he is also the best at making the most impossible contested fade-away jumpers. Their careers follow almost the same arc in the sense of interchanging their timelines. Kobe was successful early on his career and got the rings and now he is a tireless scorer trying to lead his team into contention with his competitive drive, compared to MJ who was trying so hard to will his team to champion contention before getting all the accolades late in his career. You can mirror it upside down and it’s almost the same.
Guillermo Garcia, NBA.com/Mexico: The difference between the two, is that Jordan was better defensively, who took a team that hadn’t yet had much of a reputation — in Chicago — and made it a global name.
Simon Legg, NBA.com/Australia: One difference that stands out, and Phil Jackson has mentioned it before, is the way they both led their teams. Jordan was more charismatic and seemed to enjoy his one-on-one time with teammates. Kobe is a little different and has taken time to be more open with the guys around him. From a playing perspective, it’s hard to separate their styles but one thing that always stands out is their efficiency. Bryant simply hasn’t been able to match Jordan’s efficiency and the 10 scoring titles to two kind of proves that.
Akshay Manwani, NBA.com/India: In terms of games, Jordan was definitely the more well-rounded player. His scoring, rebounding, assists and steals averages are all better than Bryant. That is why Jordan is considered the most fundamentally-sound basketball player ever. The one difference that works in Bryant’s favour is that he launched nearly three times as many 3-point attempts (5005) as Jordan’s (1778), with slightly better consistency (33.4 percent to 32.7 percent). In terms of their careers, the obvious difference is that Bryant came straight out of high school into the league, which probably explains the longer time he took to mature as a player. But the more important difference to me is the two-year hiatus that Jordan took, right when he was at the peak of his game, with the Bulls having won three in a row. Had Jordan played those years, would it be impossible to imagine Chicago winning eight straight titles? Also, unlike Bryant, who was Shaquille O’Neal’s lieutenant in the Lakers’ title winning years of 2000-2002, MJ was the undisputed numero uno star on the Bulls’ teams.
Stefan Petri, NBA.com/Deutschland: Can I opt for the different colors of their jerseys? No? I that case I would single out MJ’s superior defense: While Jordan was a lockdown defender for many years and still very good during his last run with the Bulls, Kobe has always relied more on his athleticism and gambled for steals – and nowadays it’s matador defense with him. Another aspect is Jordan’s jaw-dropping efficiency: Although the last two seasons in Washington weighed on his numbers, he nonetheless finished his career shooting almost 50 percent from the field. Bryant on the other hand never eclipsed 47 percent over the course of one season. For what it’s worth: In my eyes Kobe is the better shooter from downtown, though his shot selection leaves much to be desired.
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA.com/Greece: Regarding their playing style their biggest difference was bulk. Michael Jordan as he grew older he started using his upper body strength more and more, dominating with his shoulders. He weighted 10 lbs more than Kobe and was a player that thrived after contact. As for their game approach the biggest difference comes around to their different aspect of leadership and they way the affect their team and their opponents. It’s not a matter of number-crunching, but more of a contrast of wins and rings.
For more debates, go to #AmexNBA or www.nba.com/homecourtadvantage.