November 04, 2002

24 years old. Three Championships.: Kobe Bryant's last two games: (vs Trailblazers) 33 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists; (vs Clippers) 33 points, 15 rebounds, 12 assists. Does a space exist beyond the rarified air of MJ? Is it possible to surpass Jordan?

posted by jacknose to basketball at 11:13 AM - 17 comments

With health for the next decade, we could very well mention Kobe Bryant's name in the "Greatest Player Ever" debate. Once O'Neal calls it quits for good, then we shall see how Kobe handles being the lone light on a team. He's been very impressive in his showing so far.

posted by bcb2k2 at 11:38 AM on November 04, 2002

He's had a good couple of games but it's not unprecidented. Baron Davis had 2 triple doubles in a row last year, in the [i]playoffs[/i] at that. The lakers still stink without shaq.

posted by corpse at 12:31 PM on November 04, 2002

There's a context to Kobe's game. He's won three championships. He's playing in a high pressure situation. He's young, and he continues to get better and better. I'm not suggesting that we begin to compare any player with 2 triple doubles in a row to MJ; I'm suggesting that Kobe has proven to be an outstanding player, is improving with age, and is only 24. That's scary. Believe me, I want MJ to be the best ever. I was living in Chicago during his rise and dominance. I like Mike. But young Kobe continues to surprise me. He has that hunger lacking in other talented players.

posted by jacknose at 12:46 PM on November 04, 2002

Kobe's a good player, and he's probably going to get better as he gets more experience, but I think it's safe to say that if the Lakers didn't have Shaq, Kobe's championships would = 0. Time will tell, but he's certainly got the potential. I just wonder if he'd be as successful on say, the Grizzlies or something.

posted by Ufez Jones at 12:49 PM on November 04, 2002

Of course it's possible to surpass Jordan as Greatest Player Ever, and Kobe's in the lead. My reservations are... (1) My fear that he's fired up by newly revived criticism that he's not a team player. It usually arises when Shaq's not there, and that he'll resume his Shaq-absent gunning when the criticism fades. (2) That TMac, KG, etc. aren't so far behind Kobe -- they've got a decade left -- that they can't catch up and make their own claim to that. (3) That the GPE claim may pass hands more quickly than it did in the past, just because the talent level seems to have increased in the last decade. I remember when Grant Hill was poised for that inner circle of greatness. Same goes for Penny Hardaway. Even if you allow for injuries, a whole bunch of dudes have overtaken those two. It doesn't mean that Kobe will become "another guy", but I think that guys like LeBron -- or even Chandler, Brown and Curry from last year's draft -- could skew that argument anew. (4) That I wonder if there's anything against considering Shaq for that distinction? I don't feel THAT bad saying he's the best player in the last two decades.

posted by jackhererra at 02:15 PM on November 04, 2002

That I wonder if there's anything against considering Shaq for that distinction? If anything, it's probably the fact that his play isn't pretty or especially exciting to watch. You've seen one Shaq slam, you've seen 'em all. He's probably the most dominant player in the past two decades, but he's not pretty enough to be considered for an honor like this. (and I really dislike shaq, btw.)

posted by Ufez Jones at 02:52 PM on November 04, 2002

Ufez, Jackh. CLEARLY - Shaq is far more valuable that Kobe, and a more relevant heir to air.

posted by djacobs at 03:13 PM on November 04, 2002

One thing I've never really understood about Shaq: Why hasn't he been able to average over 30 points/game consitently. I mean, I agree, he is as dominant a force as basketball has ever seen. He's the one player that could have realistically gotten near Wilt's record of 50 points/game in a season. You just throw the ball in to him every play, and he dunks (or, eventually, gets fouled). Also, for people saying that Kobe would not have won the titles without O'Neal, it's the same way reversed. O'Neal went to the Finals in 1995 with Orlando (with Penny Hardaway), but got swept by Houston. Could Shaq win a title with this Lakers team, minus Kobe? We'll likely never know the answer to that question. Can Kobe win without Shaq? We'll probably find that out soon enough.

posted by bcb2k2 at 08:27 AM on November 05, 2002

I think Shaq's inability to win the title with the magic had more to do with his youth and inexperience, plus the opposing center, rather than who he was playing with.

posted by corpse at 10:54 AM on November 05, 2002

Good point, bcb2k2. Think of all the last minute heroics by Kobe during the playoffs. Shaq can dominate a game, but he becomes a bit useless during the last few minutes of a close game (of course, his free throws have been improving). If it were not for Kobe's ability to create a shot at will (a la MJ) and have the desire and confidence to take the big shot (a la MJ) or hit the crucial free throw (a la MJ), Lakers would not have three championships. Do you remember when Jackson would take Shaq out during the final few minutes so he wouldn't be fouled and have to take free throws? It's similar to the Kings. Webber can be dominate throughout a game but during the final minutes he becomes unreliable. It takes someone like Bibby who is not afraid to shoot. We could also ask the same old question about MJ and Pippen. Could MJ have won without Pippen? IMHO, yes.

posted by jacknose at 10:56 AM on November 05, 2002

I think corpse makes the better point, while it almost makes me take back my earlier contention about Shaq being the greatest ever. In the post, who was better than Hakeem during the early 90s, before health and age became the issue? And that's what Shaq was going against this, in his third year in the league. Can Shaq win a title without Kobe? I'm not sure. Vice-versa? Far less sure. My thing with Shaq is that he will win 50 games on any team he goes on. I tend to doubt that "Cavs + Kobe" produces 40 wins.

posted by jackhererra at 07:34 PM on November 05, 2002

While no one argues harder for the idea that athletes have continually gotten better over the years (so the star from 1960 is not half the player as a similar star from 2002)... how come no one's mentioning Bill Russell? 11 for 13, even in a smaller league with good surrounding players, has gotta count for something (considering what the Shaq of his day, Wilt Chamberlain, couldn't do during that period). MJ to my mind is the best player of the past 20 years, no questions asked- something about Kobe is missing, some drive, some fire... but shouldn't Russell at least be in the discussion?

posted by hincandenza at 11:46 PM on November 05, 2002

Yeah, I think Shaq + Lakers would at least make the playoffs. Kobe + Lakers do not. Kobe had another great game last night coming up one assist shy of a third straight triple double. Oh, and the Lakers scored 70 points and lost to the Cavs.

posted by corpse at 06:15 AM on November 06, 2002

Yes, and I was horrified.

posted by jackhererra at 09:30 AM on November 06, 2002

how does Kobe at 24 compare to Michael at 24? this is the main question. answer: Jordan had his highest scoring year (1987) the season he turned 24 with 37.1 pts/game. i'm guessing this is when he became dominant. Kobe hasn't scored anywhere near this mark, and probably won't. however, we can attribute a lot of that to having to share with Shaq. MJ didn't have to share with anyone in '87. it would still be three more seasons before Michael began the first three-peat. after '87 Michael's scoring went down. did he learn to pace himself? did he learn to spread the ball around? did he learn to do the other things that win championships. that's Michael's genius: he won. not only was he the most physically talented player, he was also very disciplined, worked hard in the offseason, stayed healthy, knew how to hold a team together. he knew how to win. final answer: time will tell. does Kobe have Michael's physical gifts? similar package, if you ask me. he has already shown the ability to contribute as the first or second most important guy on championship teams (as Michael did at Carolina). but is he a winner like Michael? will he be passionate? single-minded? will he work hard and keep getting better? will he manage his relationship with Shaq better? Shaq is the best center ever and has the ego to go with it. this is something Michael never had to deal with. he was always no. 1, no question. but Kobe's best chance is with Shaq. Michael didn't have to face this challenge. what will Kobe make of it? that way lies greatness.

posted by Sean Meade at 01:11 PM on November 06, 2002

41 points.
47 shots.
Discuss amongst yourselves.

posted by tieguy at 10:16 PM on November 07, 2002

Imagine if he had made them all! or even half of them.

posted by corpse at 09:18 AM on November 08, 2002

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