Kobe Bryant. Two Polarizing Words Of This Generation

Kobe Bryant. Two of the most polarizing words of this generation in sports.

Why do you ask? Here’s a list. It’s pretty well known, even still remarkable.

18 time All Star.

11 Time All NBA First Team.

9 All NBA defensive teams.

Back to back NBA Finals MVP.

5 Time NBA champion.

2 time scoring champion.

3rd All Time in points scored.

All during a 20 year reign with the same franchise… The Los Angeles Lakers.

(Pause; Kobe wasn’t drafted by the Lakers. The Charlotte Hornets drafted Bryant with the 13th pick of the 1996 NBA Draft for Vlade Divac. He is currently the vice president of basketball operations for the Sacramento Kings.)

The Black Mamba’s legacy is something talked over and over about. After Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant was the NBA’s poster boy. By playing for one of the NBA’s most popular franchises in the city of Los Angeles, Kobe was able to mold himself into not only a star on the basketball floor but off. Professional athletes don’t become household names overnight.

Kobe Bryant’s stardom and fame has led his name to be synonymous with the game of basketball. From his deadly fade away to his reverse layups, children of the earlier 21st century have molded their entire games to Kobe Bryant. Anywhere in the United States, one can find a young man who owns a number 24 or even a number 8 Kobe Bryant jersey shooting around on their neighbors’ basketball hoop.

The legend that is Kobe Bryant continues to live on.

But, what if Kobe Bryant isn’t nearly the greatest shooting guard (behind Michael Jordan) that has ever played? Surprisingly, by using advanced metrics to effectively compare Kobe Bryant to some of the best scorers in the history of the game, one sees that Bryant has legitimate statistical competition, unknown to many fans of the game.

The statistic used to describe the period of time each player is on the court is 100 possessions. This is used because per game and per so many minutes stats can be skewed. Each individual player plays a different amount of minutes per game, along with each team’s pace affecting how many touches/chances a player has of collecting box score stats.

 

The first comparison – Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson

Career Averages for Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson in the Regular Season. (Per 100 Possessions)

Points Ass. TRB Steals TO TS% PER WS VORP BPM
Kobe 35.8 6.7 7.5 2.1 4.3 .550 22.9 8.64 3.61 3.9
AI 33.7 7.8 4.7 2.7 4.5 .518 20.9 4.90 2.21 2.7

Career Averages for Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson in the Postseason. (Per 100 Possessions)

Points Ass. TRB Steals TO TS% PER WS VORP BPM
Kobe 34.7 6.4 6.9 1.9 4.0 .541 22.4 N/A N/A 4.4
AI 36.2 7.3 4.7 2.5 3.8 .489 21.2 N/A N/A 3.2

Most recently, Allen Iverson was elected into the basketball Hall of Fame. Even though he’s never won a championship.

But, Iverson does have quite the resume. In the year he did lead the 76ers in the Finals (2001), he won league MVP. He was an 11 time All Star, a 4 time scoring champion, and led the league in steals for 3 straight years.

We may never see another pure scorer off the dribble than Prime Iverson.

The even more surprising thing is, Allen Iverson isn’t that far off from the production Kobe Bryant gave per 100 possessions.

In the regular season, Iverson averaged more steals and more assists (after all he played “point guard.”)  Kobe averaged 2.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 3.2 TS% more than Iverson. Kobe clearly was a better overall scorer and rebounder than Iverson, and much more efficient (and a better defender,) but Iverson isn’t nearly as far off from Kobe’s statline.

In every single statistic, Iverson was much lower than Kobe Bryant’s efficiency (Player Efficiency Rating, True Shooting %, Win Shares, Value Above replacement, and Box Plus/Minus) Now, this is less of a positive for Kobe Bryant, and more of a negative for Allen Iverson.

In all reality, Iverson was never really an efficient scorer. He was, however, the only offensive component on very below average 76ers teams. So much so, that in the 2000-2001, the 76ers had 4 big men average 12, 9, 8, and 7 rebounds apiece. Iverson missed around 15 shots per game and took 16 more shots per game than anyone else on the roster. It was the Allen Iverson show, the one that met and lost in 5 to Kobe’s Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals.

At the end of the day, Kobe Bryant is leaps and bounds ahead of Iverson concerning accolades. Iverson never had the opportunity to win championships on a super talented team. Kobe had talented big men like Shaq and Pau Gasol around to help him to those Finals victories. The metrics state that Kobe was a better scorer, volume and efficiency wise. However, this doesn’t disregard the fact that Iverson’s stats are on par with the Black Mamba.

 

The second comparison – Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.

Career Averages for Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade in the Regular Season. (Per 100 Possessions)

Points Ass. TRB Steals TO TS% PER WS VORP BPM
KB 35.8 6.7 7.5 2.1 4.3 .550 22.9 8.64 3.61 3.9
DW 35.0 8.6 6.9 2.5 5.0 .562 24.7 8.75 4.34 5.3

Career Averages for Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade in the Postseason. (Per 100 Possessions)

Points Ass. TRB Steals TO TS% PER WS VORP BPM
KB 34.7 6.4 6.9 1.9 4.0 .541 22.4 N/A N/A 4.4
DW 32.3 7.1 7.5 2.2 4.8 .552 22.7 N/A N/A 5.1

To preface this comparison, yes, Dwyane Wade hasn’t played into his “twilight years” like Kobe has. He’s only played 13 years, where Kobe played a healthy 20. Still, Wade hasn’t been the same the past 2 or 3 years, and the argument is plenty valid.

It’s very possibly that Dwyane Wade was an equal if not better overall player than Kobe Bryant.

There’s no playoffs argument – both needed Shaq (and then later LeBron James and Pau Gasol) to win championships.

Both are the best shooting guards of their intersecting generations.

Both represent their respective organizations (the LA Lakers and Miami Heat) as the greatest player in their history.

They are both a lot alike. The main difference? These stats say with a loud booming voice, Wade was a more efficient scorer, passer, and overall player.

In the regular season, Dwyane Wade had 1.9 assists, .4 steals, and a whole point better in true shooting percentage. Not to mention Wade led in every single advanced stat category given. Kobe Bryant averaged .8 points and .6 rebounds more, .7 TO less than Wade.

In the postseason, even more so, Wade makes his case for his supremacy. Even though he averages 2.4 points less than Kobe, he averages .7 more assists, .6 rebounds, .3 more rebounds, a better true shooting percentage, and a .7 more BPM.

Even though Wade didn’t score nearly as much as Kobe did, Wade shot more efficiently (even with a worse 3 point shot) and put up more assists, rebounds, and steals than Kobe does on average. Wade’s only other fault is that he averaged upwards of 1 more turnover a game compared to Kobe Bryant.

Simply, the Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade is relevant. And it should be brought up more simply because Wade’s prime years are vastly underappreciated, a blunt contrast to the never ending love Kobe Bryant receives.

The third and final comparison – Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.

Career Averages for Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant in the Regular Season. (Per 100 Possessions)

Points Ass. TRB Steals TO TS% PER WS VORP BPM
KB 35.8 6.7 7.5 2.1 4.3 .550 22.9 8.64 3.61 3.9
KD 36.9 5.0 9.5 1.6 4.4 .605 25.0 11.98 4.63 4.8

Career Averages for Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant in the Postseason. (Per 100 Possessions)

Points Ass. TRB Steals TO TS% PER WS VORP BPM
KB 34.7 6.4 6.9 1.9 4.0 .541 22.4 N/A N/A 4.4
KD 35.8 4.6 10.0 1.4 4.3 .575 23.6 N/A N/A 4.8

Kevin Durant is still in his prime. Kobe Bryant is retired. Kevin Durant has never won a thing. Kobe Bryant has more rings than one hand can wear. Kevin Durant is a forward. Kobe Bryant is a guard. And the worst of all, Kevin Durant isn’t loyal.

Yada Yada Yada.

Regardless of excuses, by looking straight at the stats, Kevin Durant not only is a better scorer, but possibly an overall better player than Kobe Bryant ever was.

Kobe has an advantage in the assist numbers department – averaging 1.7 and 2.0 more in the regular and postseason. He also averages a minuscule amount of steals more and less turnovers a game. Other than that, it’s all Kevin Durant. (Yes that semi-rhymed)

Kevin Durant averaged a point more a game, 2-3 more rebounds, at an insane efficiency. In every single advanced metric listed, Kevin Durant has the advantage. His true shooting numbers are off the charts. Averaging a 60 percent true shooting (if taken in the right context and timetable) is something even the all-time greats couldn’t do. At least not with averaging 35 points a game.

To put this into perspective, here’s a chart showing the only players (post 1973) that have averaged 35 plus points per 100 possessions.

 

True Shooting Percentage Points Per 100
Kevin Durant .605 36.9
Shaquille O’Neal .586 35.2
LeBron James .581 36.9
Michael Jordan .564 40.4
Dwyane Wade .562 35.0
Kobe Bryant .550 35.8

 

Not only is Durant tied second all-time with LeBron James and behind the greatest ever, Michael Jordan, but he did that volume of scoring at an efficiency no all-time great could match.

And fans still don’t respect Kevin Durant? Nonsense.

He may have not won as much as Kobe has (although that could change within the next 5 years with Golden State.) But Kevin Durant’s premier scoring ability makes him a legitimate better offensive player than Kobe was.

Final Thoughts:

The argument that Kobe Bryant is the greatest basketball player of all time is uninformed. If all you look at is number of rings and ESPN highlights, you won’t be able to see that Kobe Bryant, as much as he means to the NBA, has had actual competition in terms of comparison.

Maybe Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, and Kevin Durant aren’t necessarily better players than Kobe Bryant in your average basketball fan’s eyes. But after reading the statistical breakdown, one cannot say that these players aren’t worse than Kobe himself.

 

3 Comments

  1. Nice article Austin. While your statistical analysis is impressive….I will always believe MJ is the greatest basketball player of all times. His talent went beyond statistics…leadership, athleticism, and super powers even when sick. Hats off to the rest…very impressive players. Love your opening paragraphs. Very eloquent.

    Reply
  2. Great comparison in the Dwayne Wade Byant one

    Reply
  3. Finally I have another person who truly understands the whole myth around Bryant. You sir have outdone yourself.

    Reply

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