If there’s anything people believe about Kobe, is that Jordan is miles ahead of Kobe Bryant, because of the 5% gap in their shooting percentages. Jordan is the efficient, big-time scorer, while Kobe is the inefficient ballhog who shoots his team out of games. (Something that has been proven factually incorrect…hell, Kobe shoots better when the team is down)
That difference, (and a whole lot of Nike marketing), is what drives people to believe that Kobe is barely a top 10 player in the NBA, while Jordan is the unanimous GOAT. But…is that truly the case?
An interesting statistical tid-bit that most people haven’t realized yet, is that Jordan has shot the ball 236 more times in his career compared to Kobe, despite playing 5 less years.
This can mainly be attributed to Jordan’s ridiculous 22.9 FGA, tops in league history. Kobe, in comparison, shoots a “paltry” 19.6 FGA over his career.
Here’s the thing though, despite the 4.3% difference in FG%, the difference in total number of points between the two is…675.
If we take into account Kobe’s average efficiency per shot taken (PPWS), 31617(PTS)/24301(FGA) = 1.301 Points Per FGA, that means that Kobe will need 675/1.301 = 519 shots to equal Jordan.
What does this all mean? Well it means that over their whole careers, the difference between Kobe and Jordan’s scoring output, is literally 283 shots. This means that had Kobe made 0.23 more shots a game over his career, he would have the exact same efficiency as Jordan. Are you really telling me that 0.23 made shots a game, is the only thing separating Kobe from Jordan? The difference between the 10 - 15th spots in the greatest pantheon of NBA players, and the GOAT?
People might say that my logic is faulty, but fact is, if you take into account eFG%, and TS%, Kobe’s numbers (48.7% eFG, 55.5% TS) isn’t that far off from Jordan’s (50.9% eFG, 56.9% TS). When you take into account their output over their whole careers, it’s surprising that with Jordan’s reputation as the greatest scorer in NBA history, that Kobe is breathing right down his neck.
Another fun tidbit: Had Kobe taken the same amount of shots as the great Michael Jordan (22.9 - 19.6, so 3.3 more shots attempted per game over their careers), Kobe’s career scoring average would be 25.5 + 3.3 * 1.301 = 25.5 + 4.293 = 29.8 PPG
0.3 PPG, that’s apparently the gap between Kobe and Jordan.
It’s a lot closer than you would imagine. I’m willing to go so far as to say that Kobe is the best offensive weapon this league has ever seen. He has sustained a level of offensive production most players can only dream of, let alone guards.
It is obvious to any objective observer that Bryant is the closest thing to Jordan since Jordan retired; they have similar body types, for most of their careers they played the same position in the same offensive system for the same coach and they both were the dominant winners in their sport during their respective careers.
Both Jordan and Bryant did not have any skill set weaknesses once they reached their respective primes and I consider them equal as defenders, rebounders and passers. Bryant has the edge in terms of long range shooting, while Jordan had the more consistent midrange game and finished a bit better in traffic thanks to his larger hands.
For those curious, Jordan’s numbers from 86 - 98: 26556/19733 = 1.346 Points per FGA
Kobe’s numbers from 2001 - 2011: 1.307 Points per FGA
So yeah, prime Jordan was better, although if you look deeper into the numbers you’d see that old Kobe beats old Jordan pretty handily.
Jordan’s PPWS during second three-peat (regular season) : 1.29 (48% FG, 50.4% eFG, 56% TS)
Kobe’s PPWS during championship run (regular season): 1.306. (46% FG, 49.8% eFG, 56.1% TS)
"Here are Jordan’s playoff averages from 1996-98 when the Bulls won three championships:
1996: 30.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.1 apg, .459 FG%, .403 3FG%, .818 FT%
1997: 31.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 4.8 apg, .456 FG%, .194 3FG%, .831 FT%
1998: 32.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.5 apg, .462 FG%, .302 3FG%, .812 FT%
Here are Bryant’s playoff averages from 2008-10 when the Lakers made three straight trips to the Finals and won two championships:
2008: 30.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.6 apg, .479 FG%, .302 3FG%, .809 FT%
2009: 30.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.5 apg, .457 FG%, .349 3FG%, .883 FT%
2010: 29.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 5.5 apg, .458 FG%, .374 3FG%, .842 FT%
Remember that Jordan was playing alongside a Hall of Famer in Pippen, who established himself as a legitimate MVP candidate on his own during Jordan’s minor league baseball days. Jordan also had a Hall of Fame caliber power forward in Rodman, though Rodman may never be voted in for reasons that have nothing to do with his basketball skills. In contrast, Bryant’s best teammate during the past three seasons–Pau Gasol–has still never received even one fifth place MVP vote and he never made the All-NBA Third Team in the six seasons that he played prior to teaming up with Bryant. Also, though Jordan was a bit older than Bryant during the time frames in question, Jordan had played fewer seasons and minutes and was healthier than Bryant, particularly the 2010 version of Bryant.
When comparing the players’ shooting percentages it is important to remember that the NBA shortened the three point line from 1994-95 to 1996-97. Jordan shot .500 from three point range during his 17 game 1994-95 season, .427 in 1995-96 and .374 in 1996-97. Only twice in his other 12 regular seasons did Jordan shoot better than .350 from long distance and in nine seasons he shot worse than .300. Bryant shot three pointers more frequently than Jordan and Bryant made a higher percentage of his three pointers even though Bryant only enjoyed the benefit of the shortened line during his rookie season.
So, even though Kobe’s playoff field goal percentages from 2008-10 were just slightly better than Jordan’s playoff field goal percentages from 1996-98 the difference is actually more pronounced if you factor in the extra points from three pointers: Bryant’s “effective field goal percentages” (EFG%) were .514, .492 and .506 during the 2008, 2009 and 2010 playoffs, while Jordan’s EFG% in the 1996, 1997 and 1998 playoffs were .490, .469 and .474 respectively."
(Quoted paragraphs taken from http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/2010/06/placing-kobe-bryants-career-in.html. Give it a read guys, it’s a fascinating article which makes you rethink how Kobe is as a player)
Kobe’s consistency has been pretty damn remarkable, his efficiency has actually increased as he got older. I haven’t seen that trend in any other player in league history.
(Credit to link provided as well as u/Paladinoras from r/nba)