Sunday, June 15, 2008

Kobe vs MJ? Please.

The Lakers won tonight (barely) and will extend the series to six games. Since the next two are in Boston, I give them less than a 2% chance of winning. It was less than 5% for me after their game 4 loss, but after tonight's performance I have to downgrade LA. For the home team, that was a pretty pathetic performance.

Kobe was a no-show in the 2nd half two games in a row. So again I have to agree with my favorite sports columnist, Bill Simmons, on this:

The Kobe-MJ thing ... done. Over. Jordan never would have let that happen in the Finals. Ever. Under any circumstances. Nobody is ever allowed to bring this up again.

Seriously. But I won't stop with this point alone. A few weeks ago Dan Patrick brought up how he believes Kobe is a greater offensive player than Michael Jordan. While I respect Dan and he was my favorite anchor during the early days of ESPN, I will have to completely disagree with him on this.

The only area that I will say Kobe is better than MJ is three-point shooting, and this is a weak give since Kobe's career percentage is 34% to Michael's 33.2%. Yes, these are real numbers. Most people have a misconception that MJ was horrible at threes and shooting below 30%. MJ even tried to improve on this three-point shooting one year and shot 42.7%. The highest Kobe shot was 38.3%

Michael had no incentive to improve on this area of his game. He was dominating and shooting above 50% in his prime. Kobe's highest percentage? 46.8%. Especially in today's no-hand check game, Kobe should be shooting above 50% to be seriously considered the heir to Jordan's throne. I blogged before that I believe Michael would have had a couple 40 plus points per game seasons under today's rules that favors slashers and offensive players. For those of you that saw MJ play, can you imagine him playing games where people don't grab on to his jersey? Elbow and push hard against his back?

While today's players are bigger and stronger, this wouldn't even be a factor. I won't even assume that Michael would have kept up with the norm of exercise if the 2000s were his prime years. Just look at Reggie Miller a few years back. Remember? He would occasionally bust out and score 38 points in a game at the tail end of his career. Miller is made up of twigs and jumps about a foot off the ground. Aging Sam Cassell (E.T or The Fly?) would also breakout big games a few years ago and simply explained that today's players don't know how to play defense when asked "how he still does it".

I haven't heard anyone state that Kobe is close to MJ on defense, and I'm glad. First, MJ was known as an at-will lock down defender. Mitch Richmond? He's not getting more than 10 points tonight. Bam. Done. Kevin Johnson? Shutting him down tonight. Done. Kobe doesn't have this rep and never will. Also his numbers don't even come close. MJ's had six 200 steal seasons. Kobe? Zero. MJ had two 100 block seasons. Kobe? Zero. Defensive Player of the Year? MJ had 1, Kobe 0.

This year's NBA Finals and some of Kobe's past performances have revealed that he doesn't have the killer instinct on par with Michael Jordan. I believe Kobe is the best player in the NBA today and is the best clutch shooter, but please stop making comparisons to the greatest ever.

I was going to write about Prince shutting Kobe down in the 2004 Finals, which would never have happened to MJ, but forgot to. Anyway, more from Bill Simmon's (June 17, 2008)...

Boy, Kobe sure seems to have trouble scoring on these Shane Battier/Paul Pierce types, doesn't he? If someone's a little bigger than him, stays between him and the basket and has the reach to contest his jumper, and if that person is flanked by smart defenders who remain aware of what Kobe is doing at all times, it sure seems Kobe has trouble getting the shots he likes. Not to belabor the point because it's a moot discussion at this point, but MJ didn't have a "kryptonite" flaw. He just didn't. Of everyone from the '90s, John Starks probably defended him the best ... and it's not like Starks was shutting him down or anything. He just made MJ work a little harder for the points he was getting anyway. The point is, Jordan did whatever he wanted during a much more physical era, and when he faced great defensive teams -- like the '89 and '90 Pistons or the '93 Knicks -- nobody ever shackled him or knocked him into a scoring funk. Kobe? He looks a little lost offensively against the Celtics. It's true. Same for the 2004 Finals against Tayshaun Prince, another lanky defensive player with a good reach. Just remember to mention this on his NBA tombstone some day.