I spent a few years of my life in corporate America. I met some great people during that time; but I miss the job like we all miss G6 of the ’08 Finals.
Most of my days started with me waking up and slipping on my work sweater. Am I the only one who had a work sweater? I owned three (all different colors), and rotated them throughout the week. Some of you know exactly what I am talking about; a few of you are even wearing yours right now. My work sweaters screamed I am a 50-year-old trapped in a 20-year-olds body – perfect for the corporate world.
The majority of my professional life was depleted by bouncing in and out of meeting rooms, conference calls and campus coffee shops. I even learned a whole new language – acronym’s like ETA and SLA suddenly didn’t sound like someone mumbling during a seizure. There were three things that got me through that season of life:
- An awesome team of co-workers.
- A very strict $200/month coffee budget.
- Bill Simmons, Marty Burns and every other Mailbag column on earth.
I was like a kid at Neverland Ranch – wait, let me rephrase that – I was like a kid at Disneyland every time I opened my laptop to find a new mailbag had been posted. I remember wishing their mailbag columns were even longer and released every few hours; that seems completely ludicrous now. I am no Bill Simmons (I am convinced he is not human) or Marty Burns, but I hope this mailbag provides you the same relief from work that it always did for me.
Let’s get to it.
[These are all real emails/tweets/messages sent by you guys – sometimes edited for length and/or profanity.]
I get it; people HATE the Kobe/Jordan comparisons. But with an improved Kobe working the post (Kinda like M.J.) and an improved Laker team poised to be competitive for the next couple of years (win a few more rings in addition to his 4), does the comparison conversation change at all?
Great question. Short answer: 100% yes. Long answer? Well…
Let’s say the following happens: Kobe brings home another MVP (this season or next) and another Finals’ MVP (this season or next). He avenges his loss (and sub-par performance) by knocking off the Boston Celtics in the Finals (most likely this season). He returns next year, continues to play at an MVP-type level and remains the best player on another championship team – giving him 6 rings (same as MJ) and a second three-peat (same as MJ).
IF (and possibly when) that happens, then we can make the comparison without it being offensive to Jordan’s’ astounding legacy (right now, it’s silly). Even so, every quantifiable category will still lean in M.J.’s direction. There are three measurable ways we can evaluate greatness:
There are more intangibles than just that, but most of them have a lot to do with things that we can’t necessarily gauge. Let’s see how Jordan and Kobe would historically match up in those three categories (still assuming our first paragraph happens):
Jordan has 6 Rings (6-0 in the Finals), won 6 Finals MVP Awards and made the playoffs all 13 years he played in Chicago (missed twice in Washington). Kobe has 6 rings (6-2 in the Finals), won 3 Finals MVP Awards and made the playoffs in all but one of his 14 years in Los Angeles (and counting). Relatively close? Sure. Even so, I would still give Jordan the edge there, especially having never lost on the grandest stage.
Jordan was All-NBA First-Team 10 times (6 MVP’s), All-Defensive First-Team 9 times (1 DPOY) and racked up a ridiculous 10 scoring titles. Kobe was All-NBA First-Team 8 times (2 MVP’s), All-Defensive First-Team 7 times (0 DPOY) and has 2 NBA scoring titles. Jordan is +2 on All-NBA First Team Awards, +4 on MVP’s, +2 on All-Defensive Teams’ and a surprising +8 on scoring titles. That gives him +16 in the Awards department – A lead that Kobe won’t be able to make up no matter how well he plays out the remainder of his career.
Just for the hell of it, let’s assume that Kobe puts up 28/5/5/1 on 45% shooting for the next two years. Here’s what that would look like:
Before you crucify me, this is not a knock on Kobe Bryant. As you said in your question, does Kobe winning a couple more titles and another MVP award change the conversation? Absolutely. Granted, Jordan will always come out on top (I personally think), but Kobe becomes a very worthy comparison – something that nobody else in NBA history has been able to accomplish.
Why the F— hasn’t Kupchak pulled the proverbial trigger on Sasha and/or Luke? Seriously, Sasha didn’t produce in the Finals, he barely produced in the playoffs and he has dwindling minutes thanks to Shannon and Jordan. You said it yourself – Sasha hit an open jumper?!… And Luke? (Relevant side tangent) Before my wife met me she only had limited knowledge of pro basketball because she rarely watched it on TV. After meeting me and getting up to speed with the Lakers, the only comment she makes when Luke touches the ball is “OMG, why do they put him on the floor?!” … ‘Nuff said.
This made me laugh – I think the male equivalent of your wife asking you why Luke is on the floor would be you asking her why Kristen Stewart was cast as Bella in the Twilight series. Can we say that Luke Walton is the Kristen Stewart of the Lakers? I am going to say yes. Any objections? Good. (Did I just reference Twilight in a Lakers’ column? Damn.)
Luke has three years (not including this season) left on his contract where he will make (gulp) $17 million. He can’t shoot the ball consistently from outside. He is too small to bang down low. He spends an awful lot of time in street clothes nursing an array of injuries. His one redeeming quality is that he is a good passer and understands how to employ that in the triangle. Still, only Isaiah Thomas would be brainless enough to donate anything of value to the Lakers’ championship cause in return for Mr. Walton.
Sasha is a different story. He has always been a one-dimensional player – and we were okay with that. In ’08, he was our Steve Kerr. We loved how pesky he was defensively and stood every time he fired one from downtown. We even gave him an alter-ego (The Machine) – that’s how much we loved him. Then the Boston Celtics happened and he still hasn’t mentally recovered.
He commits ridiculous fouls away from the ball, launches contested three’s and spends more time flopping around on his back than Chelsea Handler. His teammates don’t trust him and his opponents can’t stand him. Couple that with the $5.4 million he will make next season, and Sasha has trade leprosy. Mitch couldn’t swap him for Eddy Curry’s abs and a pair of Knicks season tickets. I think we are stuck with a broken machine through ’11.
How many games will the Nets lose before they win one?
Do the Nets get to play the Flint Tropics this season? Would Will Ferrell drop 50 on Chris Douglas-Roberts? Maybe. I have honestly never seen a worse basketball team. They run through their offense with the intensity of a Kathleen Turner workout. They will be remembered as the worst team in NBA history. I am almost as certain of that as I am of smoking the guy who asked this question (Kris) in next summers’ Mud-Run.
New Jersey has a few winnable games before the New Year (vs. Charlotte, @ New York, vs. Golden State, vs. Minnesota). If they don’t win any of those games (quite possible), they are looking at heading into 2010 at 0-32. Do I want to see this? Of course I do; we all love a good train wreck, right? That explains why Tyra Banks still has a talk show.
I am going to say the Nets get a win in New York on 12/6 (0-19). If they lose that game, then they won’t win until 12/23 when Minnesota comes to town (0-28). If they lose that game, they won’t win again until they play Macabbi Tel Aviv in an exhibition game during the ’10-11 preseason. If they lose that game, I am moving to New Jersey and going to an open tryout.
I cringe at the sound of hearing “2-time MVP Steve Nash”… The dude is ring-less and finals-less. Kobe got robbed. (Vent completed)
You’re right; it’s crazy to think Nash has more MVP’s than Kobe. I think there are a few factors you have to consider:
- The MVP is a regular season award.
- It is decided by people in the media, not the people who are part of the game.
- It is as much a team award as it is an individual award.
I have to mostly agree with the ’04-05 MVP for Nash. The Suns went from awful (29-53) in ’03-04 to Pacific Division Champs in ’04-05. The only major roster difference? Steve Nash. The ’03-04 Suns had Amare, Marion and Joe Johnson with Marbury running the point. Nash stepped in and suddenly everything clicked. While he only averaged 15/11, he shot 50% from the floor and 43% from downtown – crazy numbers for a 6’4” pass-first point-guard.
Meanwhile, the Lakers were in turmoil during that ’04-05 season. The media world largely blamed Kobe for running Shaq and Phil out of town. Bryant averaged 4+ turnovers a game (career low), a sign that he trusted his teammates like we trust Obama’s economic plan. That whole season felt like the pilot episode of The Beautiful Life – there was no way it was going to end well. The Lakers missed the playoffs (34-48), marking a first in Kobe Bryant’s career.
Kobe could have put up 40/6/6 on 50% shooting and not won the MVP that year. There was no way the media was voting for him; and in all honesty, Steve Nash deserved it.
’05-06 was a different story. Kobe took a lifeless Lakers’ team (Odom, Kwame, Smush, Walton, Mihm) to the playoffs in an extremely loaded western conference. They won 45 games (+11 from ’04-05) – and if anybody remembers pre-season predictions, not one single person in the media picked the Lakers to even scratch .500. Bryant averaged 35/5/5 on 45% shooting – not to mention dropping 81 points against the Raptors and 62 in three quarters against the Mavs.
He made his teammates better. He said all the right things. He had one of the greatest seasons in the history of the league. He exceeded every critic’s expectation. He passed every MVP test except for one – the media bias. He still hadn’t publically recovered from the disaster in Colorado and the departure of Shaq and Phil. For a second season in a row, a group of reporters weren’t going to give Kobe the MVP award, they just weren’t. It was even more of an outright travesty than Duncan beating Kidd in ’02 (and that’s saying something).
Every writer that didn’t vote for Mamba in ’05-06 should be ashamed of themselves. Kobe Bryant was the MVP that season and we all know it. It wasn’t even close.
Will this Kobe vs. Lebron debate ever end? There is no debate on who is better. This is the reality of it: Kobe 4, Lebron 0.
I received several different variations of this same statement from a few of you guys. Let’s put the issue to rest, shall we? Everyone wants to know the answer to this. Who is better: Kobe Bryant or Lebron James?
If you look at this question objectively and free from any sort of bias, it seems almost preposterous to even ask the question to begin with. Aside from a handful of clutch performances and a lengthy highlight reel, Lebron James has accomplished very little thus far. If you want to talk strictly about careers, the discussion is asinine (at very best).
Kobe has 4 NBA Titles (Lebron has 0); Kobe has an NBA Finals MVP (Lebron has never won an NBA Finals game); Kobe has 2 NBA Scoring Titles (Lebron has 1); Kobe has more NBA Finals appearances than Lebron has Playoff appearances (6-4); Kobe has been All NBA First-Team 7 times (Lebron 3) and All NBA First-Team Defense 7 times (Lebron 1). I could go on, but I won’t. I think we all see where this is headed. Kobe wins in a rout.
(And for the people who say that 25-year-old Lebron is better than 25-year-old Kobe; let’s not forget that Mr. Bryant had already won three NBA championships by then.)
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s respond to the most common (and most logical) argument from the Lebron is better than Kobe camp:
Kobe may have had more accomplishments in his career, but Lebron is better right now.
Okay, that’s fair. Forget Kobe’s legendary career for a minute. What have you done for me lately? Let’s look at both players last two seasons from every relevant angle:
Kobe won an MVP (’07-08), a Finals MVP (’08-09), was All NBA First-Team (twice) and All NBA First-Team Defense (twice). Lebron also won an MVP (’08-09), was All NBA First-Team (twice) and All NBA First-Team Defense (once). In just the last two seasons, Kobe is up a Finals MVP (Lebron has never won a Finals game) and an All NBA First-Team Defense award. That gives Kobe the edge in individual accomplishments.
This is where it starts to get out of hand for the Lebron camp. Kobe has an NBA Championship (Lebron has 0), two NBA Finals appearances (Lebron has 0) and a 7-1 record in playoff series (Lebron is 3-2). Additionally, the Lakers have a regular season winning percentage of .744 (Cleveland is at .677). It’s not hard to see that Kobe and Lakers win this section over Lebron and the Cavs in a landslide.
By The Numbers:
Kobe (47%, 36%, 27/5/5) vs. Lebron (48%, 33%, 29/7/7). This is the only advantage Lebron has in the debate (and it’s by the slimmest of margins). He has posted slightly better numbers than Kobe over the past couple of seasons. Let’s give that to him and concede the point.
Kobe 2, Lebron 1 | Final. (And it really wasn’t even that close.)
There is only one remaining question the Lebron camp has left to ask: Will Lebron pass up Kobe in the next couple of seasons? Most likely, yes. It’s just too bad for LBJ that Dwyane Wade will still be better than him when he does.
You should get back to work and I should get to bed. Keep the emails/tweets/messages coming (I received way more than I expected); I plan to keep doing these mailbags so I can respond to more of your questions and comments. The SLAM Magazine winner will be announced this week.
Good luck, and good night.