A response to Andy Hutchins' Kobe/Jordan piece

Let me first say that I'm not some butthurt Kobe fanboy angry at Mr. Hutchins for ripping a poster off of my wall. Admittedly, I am a Lakers fan, and I have great respect and admiration for what Kobe Bryant has accomplished on the basketball court. But more importantly, I was compelled to write this not because I think Andy is a bad writer (he's not) or because I think Kobe's better than Jordan (if there's not an argument that'll convince me, I suppose that's my problem), but because there were a number of instances in the original piece that I felt left key information either unstated or ignored. I'll try to elucidate them.

If I didn't quote it, consider it either tacitly agreed with or not disagreeable enough and/or relevant enough to my particular points to mention.

Jordan's shooting percentage only dipped below 47.0 percent four times in his career, in fact: in 1985-86, as mentioned; in 1994-95, as he returned midseason to the court after his aborted stint as a baseball player; and in 2001-02 and 2002-03, his two seasons with the Wizards.

Take away his never-spectacular three-point shooting...

Why? Is this not an important aspect to this discussion, particularly considering Kobe's being a better career three-point shooter than Jordan? Jordan went .327 on 3s for a career, a percentage boosted by going .500 on only 32 attempts (17 games) in his 1st comeback year and coinciding with the shortened 22-foot three-point line (3 out of his 4 best three-point shooting years were with the shortened line). Is this information not germane to the discussion of Kobe and Jordan both being volume shooters/scorers?

Kobe has only rarely been [his team's best option] for the Lakers.

If by "rarely" you mean "every year since 2003," then I suppose this is true.

And while Jordan taking as many shots as he did was typically sound strategy, the Lakers have typically been better off when Kobe is not the best option on the team.

When your supporting cast is Smush Parker, Kwame Brown and Luke Walton, this is true. When it's Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum (and Adam Morrison), it's not. Kobe's spent a portion of his career as not just the best offensive option, but the only really good one.

The thing that gets elided in virtually every conversation about Kobe's five rings is that he's had a ton of help.

It does? Where are you having these conversations? Because whenever I've seen them, there hasn't really been a shortage of people pointing out Kobe being favored with Shaq, Gasol, Bynum, Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher, the refs, David Stern, his legal team, etc.

And those years were also Kobe's best shooting years. Maybe having Shaq around helped?

...and that Kobe forced a trade to get the Diesel dislodged from Los Angeles is more emblematic of Kobe's obstinacy than his greatness.

Yes, because Shaq's completely blameless in that split, and Jordan, of the tireless work ethic and punching of Steve Kerr, wouldn't have bristled against Shaq's aloofness and disrespect.

Gasol's 51st in career field goal percentage, with a 52.0 percent mark that tops Bryant's by a significant margin; heck, it tops Jordan's on twos.

...And Gasol was especially good in the 2008-09 year that saw the Lakers get their first title post-Shaq, shooting 56.9 percent from the field and topping the league in Offensive Rating while ranking fifth in field goal percentage. Gasol teaming with Bynum, who has been at 55.8 percent from the field or better in every season since his rookie campaign as the youngest player in NBA history.

Shouldn't these guys have higher percentages than Kobe or Jordan? They're 7 feet tall and play closer to the basket!

And while Bill Simmons will probably tell jokes about Kobe's 6-for-24 clunker against the Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals until he can no longer tell jokes, Gasol coming up big against the Kendrick Perkins-less C's in the final two games of the series (17 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists in Game 6, which saw Perkins play just over six minutes, and a 19-18 in Game 7) was what helped the Lakers come back from a 3-2 hole, and he was even better in Games 1 (23 and 14) and 2 (25-8 and six blocks). Kobe's best two scoring games that series (38 points in Game 5, and 33 in Game 4) both came in losses.

Yeah, but he put up 30 in Game 1 (win), 29 in Game 3 (win) and 26 in Game 6 (blowout win), not to mention the Conference Finals (against the admittedly higher-octane Suns), during which he put up fewer than 30 only once.

And none of that even gets into the recent title-winning Lakers being extraordinarily deep, with Lamar Odom and Ron Artest serving as third options at best.

That extraordinary depth that extended well into the bench, who routinely spoiled blowout wins and forced starters back into the game to close things out (other Laker fans can back me up on this).

Kobe got lucky that Mitch Kupchak could fleece Memphis for Gasol

Did Memphis get "fleeced" when they were able to start a (necessary) rebuild with a future All-Star center, two 1st Round picks and loads of cap space? That Memphis hasn't fully taken advantage of what they got in return for Gasol is their fault, certainly, but that trade is not as one-sided as it's continually considered to be.

Jordan was the NBA's best player often in his years in the league, and often by far, but he was also the guy who looked like the best player in the league, he felt like the alpha dog. He did a lot of that on his talent, and with his borderline psychotic work ethic and competitiveness, but he was also cast that way by the most effective marketing campaign in the history of American sports.

It's no wonder that Kobe, who by all accounts thirsts for glory the same way Jordan did — and it's not a stretch to wonder whether he's made sure all of those accounts tell that story — has been so much like Jordan in cultivating his image.

I'm confused. How is it that Jordan marketing himself as a competitive machine is OK, but Kobe trying the same thing is too self-conscious or somehow otherwise uncool?

And Kobe's done far worse things — being accused of sexual assault and admitting to adultery, an unforgivable act for some, trumps any of the merely reprehensible things Jordan did —

Not only is this irrelevant to the discussion, and subjective (I won't defend adultery, but to me, the craven, cynical abandoning of principles with the Harvey Gantt non-endorsement and the 2011 Lockout are worse than anything Kobe for sure did), but also not exclusive to Kobe. Jordan cheated on his wife constantly. That it was kept quiet, and never involved any legal issues, allowed it to be ignored and not factored into his image.

The extra shots after a loss to the Heat last year always seemed like a cry for attention...

Yeah, you're probably right, but if Jordan does it, it's just part of the myth.

...and the "Kobesystem" ads boil down to Bryant out-jackassing Kanye West, the guy who explained Kobe's decision to wear No. 24 instead of No. 8 perfectly by rapping it "Tryna get that Kobe number, one over Jordan."

Um, OK? Kobe does a couple of silly ads you evidently didn't care for, and this reflects on him I mean, is Kobe not allowed to be as good as Jordan because of "Thug Poet" too?

And as far as the Kanye thing goes, he's wrong, clever line though it is. Kobe changed to #24 because it was his first high school number, and also something about entering the next stage of his career. Choose to think he's lying if you must, but that's entirely dependent on which "side" you're on.

But it's harder to be greater than the best ever when you aren't the best of your own era, harder to be considered better when you got more help, and just hard to top what came before when coming after alone is a disadvantage.

I agree with the second and third points, but which era exactly does Kobe belong to? He's not entirely contemporary to LeBron, Wade, Carmelo, et al, and he came in too late to have really mixed it up with guys like Jordan, Payton, Ewing, Massenburg, etc. To me, he's more alongside guys like Iverson, McGrady, Kidd, Nash, Dirk, Duncan and Garnett, and only the latter two really have any argument for being better.

If you break it down by decade, it's like the 80's belonged to Magic and Bird, the 90's to Jordan and Pippen, the 00's to Kobe, Shaq and Duncan, and this decade will probably belong to LeBron, Durant and [???].

I don't have a problem with the thesis that Jordan's greatness, being combined with both a superior-level marketing effort and the good fortune of a unique moment in time, casts him as a legendary figure ripe for endless comparison and a specter impossible to measure up against. I think most reasonable people would agree that this is the case. My problem comes from not understanding why this article needed to be written at this time. Andy, you mentioned you thought this was Kobe's last shot at a sixth championship. So, because he didn't get it, doesn't this whole thing kinda read like, "Ha ha, you didn't make it! You're not good enough!"

Truthfully (and I know this is going to read as patronizing, which is not the intent), Andy, I like a lot of your stuff, and I love SB Nation. It's why I don't want it to become ESPN-level "Who betta?!" discussion with just the propping up/tearing down roles reversed. If a quick look at their respective pages will provide you with the appropriate statistical evidence (if not the contextual counter-arguments, like handchecking, "Jordan rules," etc.), why spend so many words building a case that should be patently obvious? And also, is this reductive story worthy of the top line on the site when there are so many other, more positive, more fascinating stories still playing out in these Playoffs?

Finally, is this really the narrative on Kobe, still? I mean, I get the "time's running out to catch MJ" stuff, but isn't the whole point of Kobe, or any player for that matter, not necessarily surpassing Jordan, but giving everything you've got in the pursuit of his ghost, regardless of how close you actually get? If nobody's going to top Jordan, and anybody that tries is going to get called on the carpet like this, what's the point? If this is how it's going to be, should we not just give LeBron a ring to finish that storyline off, and consider this the NBA's series finale?

But as for topping Jordan? Kobe has no shot.

With unnecessary hatchet jobs like these getting published? You're probably right.

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