Posted on: June 23, 2010 12:12 am

Let Me Put the MJ vs Kobe Argument to Rest

If you're a sports enthusiast like me, you are probably sick and tired of hearing all the sports radio talk comparing Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. It feels like I'm driving down the road and seeing a bunch of sports radio hosts holding "please help me" signs. We're enering into a dry area of sports talk and it's quite obvious they're desperate for a controversial topic which isn't even controversial at all. Michael Jordan is the best player of all time (well, for all the old timers, I'll put it as he's the best guard of all time) and there is no question about it. After reading this, I'm certain you will agree with me.
The biggest argument Bryant supporters have is that he is creeping up on Jordan's title total and that is it. It's also a lame argument because if we want to compare the Bulls best player during their championship run to the Lakers best player their first three, well, Kobe isn't even in the argument. We would be comparing Jordan to Shaquille O'Neal. People want to compare Jordan's partner in crime, Scottie Pippen, to Kobe's partner in crime, Shaquille O'Neal, when in fact, it was the other way around. Kobe was "Robin" to O'Neal who was "Batman". Really, we should be comparing Jordan to O'Neal as to who was the better player for their team for the first three titles for each team. O'Neal did a good job matching Jordan with three title MVP's. Bryant had zero. So did Scottie Pippen.
If we want to blindly include the first three titles into the equation and pretend Bryant was the primary player, than the argument turns to another point. When Scottie Pippen didn't have Jordan, he didn't win any titles at all. He had one deep run with the Blazers, but besides that didn't do much at all. He played six seasons post-Jordan and almost two seasons without Jordan in between the Bulls two three-peats. The Bulls only played ten playoff games and even though Pippen had higher than average season totals, his playoff totals dropped dramatically. He couldn't handle the pressure without Jordan and his self-benching during the final seconds of a playoff game exemplified the fact that Pippen wasn't good enough to lead the Bulls anywhere. O'Neal went to Miami and won a title with Dwayne Wade.
Let's put the titles to the side for now and discuss the raw data, the statistics. Michael Jordan in every important stat kept in basketball is better than Kobe Bryant and he was always the Bulls focal point while Bryant had one of the best centers to ever play the game as the focal point for the Lakers. Michael Jordan was 50% shooter as a guard and as the main player on his team. That is a truly amazing number that nobody appreciates enough. Kobe Bryant can make his next 1,500 shots in a row and still would not have a better shooting percentage than Michael Jordan. Yes, Jordan wasn't the greatest three point shooter ever, but he didn't have to because his presence allowed his teammates to get open shots. According to stats, Jordan was also a better passer and team player since he averaged more assists per game tha Kobe. Yes, it's a small margin, but yet another better stat as well.
Who pounded the boards better? Oh, that would be Jordan too. Again, a slight margin, but still better. Turnovers can win games and Jordan was not only better at stealing the ball, but also turned over the ball less. Remember, Jordan was the Bulls focal point his entire career while Bryant was a second option for the majority of his first seven years of his career.
People want to agrue that Kobe was a young kid his first two years so they shouldn't really count. With that, we would have to discount Jordan of his final two years with the Washington Wizards and even without the Jordan discount, his numbers are still better. That also opens up the LeBron James argument as James without any doubt started his career with far less talent than Bryant ever did and put up phenomenal numbers.
Let's talk playoffs now. Let me put it in a different perspective for you. Bryant has played 19 MORE playoff games than Jordan (198-179) and he has 125 less rebounds, 67 less assists, 98 less steals, and all the while Jordan outscores Bryant by almost eight points per game.
Those were all statistical differences which were close in comparison to the intangible differences that Jordan humiliates Bryant in. Jordan was the best leader I've ever seen on the basketball court. I was never at any practice, but there many reports of Jordan being harsh on his teammates when he thought they weren't practicing hard enough. There were reports that he slapped his teammates. Mike Greenberg form "Mike & Mike" on ESPN in the morning can attest to this. Jordan's demand for excellence can probably attribute to the fact that no player left the Bulls and put up better numbers than he did with Jordan. I can't say Bryant doesn't do this, but I can say with the media being more and more involved with sports teams, no report even close to Jordan types have been reported since his retirement.
People can question Jordan's first retirement, but no other player in any sport in Jordan's stature had to endure what he did with his father's horrific murder. It was very sad to see Jordan retire, but I couldn't blame him. Jordan reached the pinnacle of his life while his father was alive so what was there to accomplish after his death? I could only imagine the pride Jordan's father had for him. It is the ultimate dream of any father to see his son be the best and Jordan did just that three years in a row. He didn't quit, he took a break to reflect on life. People respected his decision and rightfully so. When Jordan realized that basketball (and sports in general) was the ultimate release from the pain inside, he proved again he was the best player in the best league on the planet. Bryant, on the other hand, essentially quit on his team. He asked to be traded publicly. Something a true leader would never do, speak out to the media about team issues. Name a time when Jordan ever did that. Again, Bryant quit, and was never traded because the team never traded him. It wasn't because he had second thoughts, it was because they wouldn't trade him.
This past NBA season/NBA Finals, could be easily compared to the baseball movie "Mr. Destiny" for Kobe Bryant. If the Lakers lost to the Celtics, which went to a very close game seven, Bryant would have been one of the biggest choke artists of all time. He had a John Starks like performance in game seven. In all honesty, an inexcusable performance. Remember, Jordan never went to a game seven.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com