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Kobe Bryant’s Overrated Legacy
By Adam Samee
Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Larry Bird are the five best basketball players of all time. Kobe Bryant is an all-time great, but his accomplishments are not as impressive as they seem. He is one of the most overrated players in history.
Early in his career, after being drafted from high school, he lacked the talent that other great basketball players did; he only averaged seven points in his rookie year. Jordan, Bird, and Abdul-Jabbar all averaged over 20 points per game in their rookie seasons. Bryant had to build his work ethic up to a legendary status in order to average over 20 points, which came in his fourth season. While there is due respect that comes with his hard work, his lack of success in his rookie year indicates that he was not as gifted as the others. Players like LeBron James, who averaged 21 points in his first season, and Moses Malone, who averaged 18 points in his first season, were also drafted out of high school, but they proved themselves through their rookie statistics.
“Kobe is the best scorer in NBA history” says Jaquan McLemore, a 25-year-old Kobe Bryant supporter and Los Angeles resident. Bryant had two scoring titles in 20 seasons, while Jordan earned 10 in 15 seasons. Bryant lacked efficiency, with a career three-point percentage of 33.3%, and he holds the record for the most missed shots in both regular season and playoff history. In his last season he was voted as an All-Star but made under 36% of his shots that season, lower than any other All-Star. His career points per game average is lower than LeBron James’, a player who facilitates before looking to score.
“Kobe’s 81 is the greatest scoring performance ever,” says McLemore, but Jordan’s 63–point performance in the 1986 playoffs is more impressive than Bryant’s 81 points in 2006. It was Jordan’s second year in the NBA, and he was coming off a broken foot. It was game two of a playoff series against one of the greatest teams of all time, the ’86 Boston Celtics, which consisted of legendary players like Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. This Celtics team won 67 (out of 82) games and were ranked 3rd (out of 30) in opposing points per game and 1st (out of 30) in defensive rating. The Celtics also went on to win the NBA championship that year, so Jordan had the highest scoring performance in playoff history against a championship team. After the game, Bird said, “I think it’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.” Bryant scored 81 points in his tenth year in the NBA, against one of the worst defensive teams ever, the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors won only 27 games that year, ranked 29th in opposing points per game, and 29th in defensive rating. Bryant’s scoring ability is one of the several parts of his game that is exaggerated, because he is simply not the greatest scorer ever.
McLemore claims, “Kobe deserved the 2006 MVP over Steve Nash.” Bryant averaged a higher amount of points during this season, but did it with significantly lower efficiency, which caused his team to win fewer games. Nash, on the other hand, led his team to a high seed in the playoffs in an unselfish way, averaging over ten assists per game. Nash averaged 50% from the field, 40% from three, and 90% from the free throw line. Only seven players are apart of this 50-40-90 club, and Kobe is not one of them.
With the most successful coach in NBA history, Phil Jackson, Bryant won five championships, but he could never make it past the first round without another all-star on his team. Players like Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James have won the finals as the only all-star on their team.
When Bryant won his first three championships, he depended on Shaquille O’Neal’s dominance to take a large part of the defense’s attention. O’Neal led the team in scoring and rebounding and also won Finals MVP in all three of his championships with Bryant. After O’Neal got traded in 2004, Bryant needed several crucial pieces in order to achieve success, He had one of the greatest power forwards in league history, Pau Gasol, sixth man of the year Lamar Odom, and defensive monster Andrew Bynum to help him win his last two championships. Bryant has had incredible statistical seasons, but they were at the expense of his teammates. In the years between the O’Neal era and the Gasol era, Bryant had an opportunity to lead his team by himself. Instead of getting his teammates involved, he scored at an inefficient rate until Gasol came along. Without Gasol or O’Neal, Bryant never made it past the first round of the playoffs.
Kobe Bryant is one of the most overrated players in basketball history. His inefficiency hurt his team. To be one of the top five players ever, a pro should be a multiple-time MVP. But Kobe only has one in his career, and he could not win a playoff series without another superstar.
Featured image courtesy of WDPG share, Flickr CC.