Posted December 07, 2012 - 06:26 AM
Rings aside, Kobe is the second-most complete player in NBA history, behind Michael Jordan. In his absolute best, just like Mike, there were no holes in Kobe's game...at all. He scored from 24 feet in, played standout defense, excellent passer, excellent post player, very good slasher and finisher, outstanding jumpshooter...all there.
Add the rings (five of them), and there's definitely no doubt that he's top five.
The only thing that hurts Kobe in such a list is the amount of season MVP's he has. That's it. When stacked against all of the All-NBA teams, All-Defensive squads, scoring titles, and rings...that MVP award becomes less relevant.
It's not going to be the popular opinion, but I'm going with it anyway...
1) Michael Jordan
2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
3) Kobe Bryant
4) Magic Johnson
5) Wilt Chamberlain
6) Bill Russell
7) Larry Bird
8) Hakeem Olajuwon
9) Tim Duncan
10) Shaquille O'Neal
Oscar Robertson is #11.
Sorry, in advance, for those who are going to scream at the list because Magic isn't in the top three, and because Wilt and Russell are #5 and #6. I'm sure people will wonder why Robertson is #11.
Simply put, I'm not slapping those guys' hands for playing in an era that was so watered down, there were around 10 teams, and shooting 30-39% was actually seen as good. Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 PPG in a season where he played 48.5 MPG (basically, every single minute of every game, including OT's), and where teams admitted they wanted to see him shatter records, which is exactly what happened in the 100-point game. Oscar averaged a triple-double, but again, in a super-weak era...he was the LeBron James of the 60's. Jason Kidd was very close to averaging a triple-double, same with Grant Hill and Michael Jordan. Magic Johnson nearly averaged 19/10/10 once (the closest to it).
But one championship for Oscar, and the fact that his MVP didn't come in the triple-double season (he placed 3rd, and do you know why?)...it doesn't set well with me in the same way that McGrady's scoring didn't when he was in Orlando. Oscar's championship came in 1971, when the league was developing, and he averaged 19/6/8. That season, the NBA had 17 teams. The Bucks won 66 games that year. What happened during his triple-double season? It came in 1962, nine total teams in the NBA, and he and the Royals won just 43 games. That team had him, Jack Twyman (HOF'er), and Wayne Embry (20/13 PF)...all three healthy and in their primes.
For the same reasons Oscar isn't so high, you'll find Wilt out of the top three. Chamberlain took 40 shots a night to average his 50 PPG, played 48.5 MPG, shot 50% from the floor that season, just eight teams in the NBA, didn't win over 46 games that year. Really? In Wilt's first 10 years in the league, he never averaged under 45 MPG. In his first six years, he never shot under 28 FGA/G...yet, never averaged 53% FG in those first six. When was Wilt's best season? Probably when he dropped 24/24/8 on 68% shooting, in Philly, at 30 years old.
Bill Russell is lucky to have his 11 rings, or else he would have been left off the list. Excellent defensive player, but a horrible offensive player. He was a big man that shot 44% for his career, averaged over 45% maybe three times (meaning, 46+ or better, rounded), won 11 rings with super-talented teams and a top three legend coach, and rebounded as well as any other top big man back in that era.
And I'll put it out there, clear as day: Magic is not better than Kobe. That ship sailed when Kobe landed #5...but as an overall player, nope. No player will disagree with that, either. Some will say that Magic is "greater" because of the impact he had on the game...but I'm not going to stiff Bryant for being born at a later year, and into a league that wasn't trashed by previous eras. The true reason why the NBA was near death was because players like Wilt and Oscar were not able to put up those incredible numbers anymore...the sport added more teams, a three-point line was added, defense and shooting percentages were improved among all players (not just one guy for each team), and athleticism started to spread throughout those teams...definitely helped that they were better-trained, with advanced resources (back then, compared to the 50s and 60s). We don't stick George Mikan in the top ten list for being the first true big man, and first dunker, so Magic shouldn't go over Kobe for "saving the NBA" with his rivalry with Bird + the Showtime era, where he basically ran with Kareem, Worthy, Nixon, Wilkes, and other very talented players that were landing all-star spots due to their individual talent.
In addition to that, nine of the ten greatest defensive teams in NBA history are from Kobe's era. Keep it in mind. You can argue how hand-checking makes things tougher, but if you do that, it tells me you never did play ball because, quite frankly, hand-checking is laughable compared to a tight zone defense that is installed to stop YOU. There is a reason why FG% were so high in Jordan's era, among all of those guards (take a trip back and look, you'll be amazed...you'll probably find 40-50 guards that averaged 15+ PPG on 50% shooting or better in Jordan's era, and you don't see much of that today). Truth is, the last 10-15 years have been tougher than any other era in basketball history, and you can't ignore that.