When the question of who is the better player: Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, the results are usually easy to predict. The older generation picks MJ, while today’s younger fans say Kobe. When each makes their case, the obvious bias always shines through. “The players now are better than those from Jordan’s era (as if he played in the ’50s). That’s why I think Kobe is better.” “Michael has six rings. Until Kobe has that many, there’s no argument. It’s MJ.” Can you guess which speaker is older?
In an attempt to keep everything as equal as possible (which is never going to happen when comparing teams or players from different times - even times as close as these are), let’s look at a number of intangible categories since comparing stats is too mundane.
#1 Each player has a focus all his own. Game’s on the line, who takes the last shot? MJ then, Kobe now.
#2 Each has a versatility to his game - power dunker in the earlier years, maintained/s ability to go to the hole; neither can be ignored behind the three-point line and both them have fantastic mid-range games (a trait in its own right that separates them from most of basketball’s other “superstars”). Both are primarily 2 guards, each can take over the point if necessary. Yet each has an unstoppable post up game.
#3 Each demanded/demands to guard the opponent’s best offensive player and was/is a shut-down defender.
#4 Each has shown no hesitation to get in teammates’ faces in order to elevate their games and each made/makes his teammates better.
#5 Each has personal flaws (this just in - as spectacular as they are on the court, they are human). MJ has a reputation as somewhat of a womanizer and a heavy gambler. While Kobe doesn’t have the gambling rap of MJ, Michael was never subjected to the public humiliation of Kobe’s “post-Colorado” press conference.
#6 As marketing icons go, MJ might own a higher business acumen (has his own brand), but Kobe’s younger and has the identical global appeal Michael did at that stage of his career.
#7 Each has won multiple championships, Jordan 6 (MJ is 6-0 in title series) to Bryant’s 4 (Kobe’s 4-2), BUT Kobe’s career is not yet complete and, if championships is the end-all barometer, what if Kobe ends up with 7? Is he automatically the better player? It’s not that simple.
#8 Each had incredible discipline when it came to personal work ethic.
#9 Interestingly enough, the fact I don’t hear when this debate is raged is that both were coached by Phil Jackson, a remarkable coincidence when comparing two players. Nowhere else is this the case. Russell-Chamberlain? Mays-Mantle? OJ-Sweetness-Sanders-Smith? Howe-Orr?
As far as differences, Michael went to college (and was mentored by Dean Smith), whereas Kobe’s education was growing up in a foreign country and is the son of a former NBA player. MJ was an immediate starter; Kobe began his career coming off the bench.
As a math teacher, I understand that answers and solutions mean the same, so when someone wants to know if there’s an answer (solution) to the “Who’s better” question between Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, I refer them to Marcel Duchamp’s quote:
“There is no solution because there is no problem.”