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Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant.

  • Jim Racalto

Michael Jordan, through his career accomplishments with the Chicago Bulls, has more than set the bar for greatness in the NBA. Every couple of years, every decade, some new flashy guy enters the league, puts up some eye-popping numbers, and starts drawing comparisons to His Airness. In my opinion, the only guy that can realistically be talked about being on  MJ’s level is the great Kobe Bryant of the Lakers. All across the board in numbers, achievements, and titles, Bryant is the only one who can be put into a discussion going up against number 23/45. Kobe Bryant recently completed his 15th season in the league, the same numbers of seasons Jordan played overall in the NBA. I figured what better time than now to compare these players on a variety of criteria, and come up with the logical conclusion: after all the hype, opinions, biases, and flashing lights, which guy is actually better based on the facts? I decided to throw out the supporting casts each guy had, as they both were surrounded by supportive teammates and each had legit wingmen for a good part of their careers. This is an individual matchup, so without further ado, let’s find out peeps!


1. Rookie Season:

Jordan runs away with this one, averaging 28 points a game in 1985 in his rookie campaign. He won every rookie accolade posssible (R.O.T.Y. and NBA All-Rookie first team). He also averaged over 6 boards and 5 assists in his first season. Kobe didn’t see the court much in his 1996 inaugural season on the hardwood, starting only six games and appearing in 71, during which he averaged 7.6 PPG , less than 2 rebounds, and less than 2 assists. Jordan, 1-0.


2. All-Star Selections and All-Star MVP Awards:

This one is very, very close. Jordan had 14 overall selections to the star-studded weekend, while Bryant boasts 13. However, Bryant has hoisted the MVP trophy four times to Jordan’s three. In one of the closest matchups in the comparison, I have to give the slight edge here to Kobe, being selected one less time but being named MVP one more time than MJ. Jordan 1, Kobe 1.


3. Defense:

This category is virtually a tie, with different stat areas favoring each player as it evens out to be almost equal. I turned to how many times each guy made the All-Defensive team, and surprise, each guy has been selected nine times. Therefore, I’d have to call it a virtual tie for argument’s sake, but leave the intricacies up to you guys. The score remains 1-1.


4. Career scoring average, regular season:

Here we go. This is where we throw out all the rhetorical crap and get down to the nitty gritty. In his heyday, nobody could do with a ball what MJ could do. He literally defied gravity at will, could break ankles with his smooth handle, and pull up from anywhere on the court to swoosh the J, he even made contested shots look like gravy (just ask Craig Ehlo or Bryan Russell). Kobe is no slouch here either, as he took the torch into the new millenium and has been the Jordan of the 2000’s. He has exceptional and unmatched skills when it comes to getting to the rack, hitting from anywhere, and being able to drain shots even double-teamed. So, who has more points-per-game after 15 seasons? It’s extremely close, but Jordan’s 30.1 career average trumps Bryant’s 25.3. Some will say a 5 point margin is much too small to give the edge to one or the other, but I must say averaging 30 points a game for a career is quite amazing, not like it’s 28 to 23. The 30 mark clearly gives Michael the edge here although Kobe puts up an admirable fight. Jordan 2, Kobe 1.


5. Post-season scoring averages:

Neither man is a stranger to the playoffs. Kobe has played in 208 post-season games to Jordan’s 179. The playoffs are where legacies are made, where the greats pull away from the pack on the biggest stage. That immediately takes Lebron James out of the discussion until proven otherwise. Back to business, Jordan was a playoff assassin. The dude could be counted on at any time, through injury or sickness, to deliver when his team needed him most. The same is true for Bryant. Both players cemented themselves as Hall-of-Famers with their playoff performances. But who has the better numbers? Jordan averaged an astounding 33.4 PPG in the playoffs, a record. Right in stride with his regular season average, Bryant once again puts up a noble fight at 25.3 playoff points per game, but falls short again as Jordan takes this category. Jordan 3, Bryant 1.


6. NBA Scoring Titles:

Surprisingly, Jordan wins this one with much more ease than I initially would have thought. He won the scoring title 10 times in comparison to Kobe’s 2. That about wraps this up without further explanation, sadly. Jordan 4, Kobe 1.


7. NBA Most Valuable Player Awards:

In another surprising landslide, Jordan again wins this category. Based off my previous assumptions, I would have thought this comparison to be much closer. However, Jordan lifted the award high above his razor-fresh head 5 times, to Kobe’s 1 in 2008. Advantage: #23. Jordan 5, Kobe 1.


8. NBA Championships Won:

This accolade may be the best way to separate the greats from one another. As seen, most of the previous categories were very close and subject to argument based on different circumstances. It is very close with these two legends, with Jordan leading the Bulls to 2 three-peats from ’91 to ’93, then again from ’96 to ’98, tallying six rings. Not to be out-done, Bryant led the Lake show to one three-peat (2000-2002), and then back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010, chalking up five rings. The advantage here goes to Michael again, but this category is the only reason Bryant is the one closest to Michael’s level. However, in the comparison, this gives MJ another edge and a 6-1 victory over the Black Mamba.


The nod clearly goes to Jordan overall, but this in no way undermines the greatness of Bryant, who is still playing and has a chance to catch-up even if it means he played more seasons than Air Jordan. Bryant is, and will continue to be, the only NBA star who can even be mentioned alongside Michael. I will not even dignify myself to put Lebron James or Dwyane Wade on this platform until they reach the levels of success that Jordan and Bryant share, and until that day happens, Michael Jordan will still be the greatest to ever touch the pumpkin.







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Jim Racalto

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16 Responses to Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant.

  • Good article, but there are two glaring omissions I think you should have made mention of. In the defensive category you called it a tie but it wasn’t even close. You mentioned all-defense team selections but made no mention of the most important fact. Michael Jordan won the defensive player of the year award. That is the highest accomplishment defensively a player can have and it is very rare for a guard to win it. Kobe has NEVER even been in the discussion for that award. Jordan has to get the advantage in that category.

    Also, in your section about championships won, you said “Kobe led the lakers” to his first three peat. That is obviously incorrect. Shaq was the leader of each of the 3 championship teams for the lakers during that three peat. He was the NBA Finals MVP in each, and only in the last of the three was Bryant a major piece. The first two he was a solid contributor but those first two titles the Lakers would have won if Kobe was there or not.

    Michael Jordan wasn’t “along for the ride” on any titles and was the major piece of each of his 6. Although Kobe has 5 rings to Jordan’s 6 it really shouldn’t be considered all that close. Jordan has Kobe by a landslide in the titles category when you really think about how each of the titles were won for both players.

    It’s like saying Adam Morrison is as good as Dwyane Wade since they both have 1 title.

    • I agree to an extent with your points. I wouldn’t say that Kobe wasn’t “Close” to Jordan defensively considering Jordan was allowed to use his hands (hand check rule) that Kobe really wasn’t able to 80% of his career. Kobe has also shut down some pretty good players including taking on the other teams best player during the USA gold games a few years ago.

      I agree that Kobe didn’t lead the Lakers during their 3 peat in the early 2000s, but I’d say he was 1a. He was more then just a “solid contributor.” during crunch time remember Shaq can’t hit free throws and Kobe had some huge games including a 48 pt game 18 rebounds (something like that) during a clincher that comes up off the top of my head against the Kings I believe. Shaq was the man no disputing that but I don’t think it was like a MJ and Scottie thing…Scottie didn’t have any 48 pt 18 rebound games. In fact what did Scottie do after MJ left? Kobe has won 2 rings and been in 3 Finals since then. Not to bring Scottie into this but that’s why Kobe couldn’t get along with Shaq cuz Kobe obviously felt he was the best player in the game and it was being hidden behind the dominace of shaq….And he prlly felt like he was better to be honest. Kobe averaged around 20-25 ppg during those years in the regular season playing with the most dominate center ever. I don’t think Jordan scores 30 plus a game and is as dominate had he played with Shaq during his prime neither. Shaq sat in the post and barked for the Ball….

      Also Kobe scored 81 or 82 points in a game, Jordan never came close to that. I think there could be a real argument made on whos the best pure scorer of all-time. Yes, Kobe played with Shaq probably the only Hall of Famer he’ll ever play with, Jordan did have Scottie, and Rodman. Role players such as Kukoc, Oakley, Grant, Harper, Paxon, weren’t slouches either. Every team who wins a Finals has great players….

      Jordans the best all time, I’m just saying he didn’t have Shaq to play with and defesivly he was allowed to use his hands his whole career, which does make a difference hence the scoring spike since the new rule was instituted.

  • Not to mention Kobe has played, for all intents and purposes, against tougher competition and has had to guard much better players night in and night out, whereas Jordan was pretty much easily the most athletic guard in the game in his prime, nobody could hang with him. Now, almost every team has a perennial star at the position, even the low win teams. With the likes of Wade, Pierce, Lebron, McGrady in his prime, Carmelo, Evans, Durant, Rose, Paul, these are all guys Kobe goes up against every night. Name that many players that were that talented when Jordan played that he had to contend with. And also he had the advantage being able to use his hands. If MJ was guarding easier guys every night it’s easier for him to win that award, whereas Kobe had made all defense nine times against stiffer competition and much more athletic guys.

  • I agree with everything you say with 2 exceptions, Jordan has an edge in era played (the rules of the game) and defense. Jordan played in an era where they could literally knock you to the ground and MAYBE they’d call a foul (remember Detroit). In spite of that he scored and player defense.

    And speaking of defense, name a player under 6’11” to ever win Defensive Player of the Year AND league MVP in the same season? You got it, only Jordan. That alone give him an edge over Kobe. Otherwise a very thoughful article.

    Norman S in Atlanta

  • Jordan era is where a lot of hall of famers and saying Kobe is guarding much better players is a pathetic.

  • There were hall of famers in Jordan’s era. Lots of them. But if you don’t think today’s stars are just as good if not better is asinine. You tell me who from Jordan’s era besides MJ himself is more athletic than Lebron, Durant, Carmelo, D-Rose, or D-Wade.

  • Yea, it’s VERY tough to argue eras, boys. Kobe does have harder defensive tasks than Jordan. Probably a tougher time in terms of who guards him too. Artest, Battier, Bowen etc. Also in terms of player size on both ends. Jordan played against PG’s in many situations. Or undersized SG’s. Jordan was the better defender tho, even Phil Jackson said it. he was stronger than Kobe and had more defensive grit. The bottom line is this, it’s a pretty close argument and it’s tough to get a real feel for things when we’re talking two completely different eras.

  • Also…Shaq was the man on every team he played for in those years. But do the Lakers get the 3-peat without Kobe? Absolutely not. If Shaq was the most intricate piece, although he was dominant, he would have 10 rings. You can’t use Shaq as an argument against Kobe, because he won two rings without him. So who really needed who?

  • I’ve been a Lakers fan since the very early 1980’s maybe even ’79. I would ask you run the numbers of Kobe v Magic Johnson or against Kareem and see who comes out on top there. No doubt Kobe is an all time great, but i’m not ready to see him in the conversation with MJ until he passes Magic, Bird, Kareem, and Dr J. He’s not there….. yet.

  • Magic Johnson Rookie Season 18.0ppg 7.3apg 7.7rpg All Rookie team and LED the Lakers in game 6 of the finals to a championship against Dr.J and the 76ers, starting at Center, no Less. Magic 1 Kobe 0 – I’d probably give magic the Nod over MJ in this one.

    All Star Appearances
    Magic Johnson – NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (1990, 1992). … Holds career records for most assists—127; and most three-point field goals made—10. … Holds single-game record for most assists—22 (1984, OT). Pretty even but Kobe gets a point here 1 all.

    Defense. Magic doesn’t have NBA all Defensive team honors but led the league twice in steals and averaged 7.2 Rebounds for his entire career and given that Kareem was eating up All Defensive honors we’ll give this one to #24. Kobe 2 Magic 1.

    Regular Season Scoring Influence
    Kobe averages 25.7 ppg and 4.3 assist giving him a scoring influence of around 35 ppg while Magic averaged 18.0ppg and 11 assist giving him the same scoring influence in a game around 35 ppg

    Playoff Scoring influence
    Kobe’s Playoff scoring influence is almost identical to his regular season with 25.4ppg and 4.8apg at the same rate of 35ppg while Magic’s moved up slightly to 19.5 and 12.3 to hit around 37ppg
    Magic 2 Kobe 2

    Championship Titles – Magic 5 Kobe 5 Finals – Tie
    MVP – Magic 3 Kobe 2
    Finals MVP – Magic 3 Kobe 2
    All NBA first team Magic 9 Kobe 9

    Once again Close but Magic gets the point in OT

    Magic 3 Kobe 2

    and for anyone that say but Kobe had Shaq, remember Magic had Kareem too.

  • if your gonna do that then run MJ’s stats against Magic fg50% 20pts with 12 assist Kareems #s Wilts #s Oscar West and Elgins and the last 4 had no three point line the last 3 had the range and had less time to work on their game dnt tell me Kobe has to surpass guys MJ didnt but the article was respectful yet bias from the point where he said MJ broke ankles and he never did and he compared Rookie Stats without considering the Lakers had two allstar establihed gaurds and he came of the bench and played about ten minutes a game and he was 18 and people forget he bloked MJ’s ungaurdable post turn around fadeaway and his three who does that to the best player in the league as a rookie and he only got better he just had a great first step and because he could not gaurd the double cross in his with his feet not talking bout AI im takking Tim Hardaway i give Kobe the defensive edge let Kobe hand check and take away zone its over Kobe is tough he plays with injuries he can handle hand checks like he did in the 90’s but having to shoot teams out of zones hurts the triangle and your fg% and no 1 considers that im not sold on either until

  • I would say MJ did have favorable comp back in the 80s and 90s he was just better I mean you had reggie miller 6’6,clyde drexler6’7,mitch richmond,6’5 glen rice6’7 steve smith6’6 dan majerle6’6 who was on an nba all defensive team and like kobe who had his fair share of stars to guard who wernt always 2guards like dominique wilkins,magic&larry,penney hardaway,gary payton,grant hill and players in the late 90s allen iverson eddie jones,ray allen,young kobe,jason kidd,nick van exel,letrell spreewell,mike finley etc so mike had some comp but its really not about the individuals more than it is about how good the overall teams were back in the 90s its not 15 good teams in the nba right now that u would really pay to watch or even watch for free for that matter no real centers except D howard teams dont play real defense and dont give me that zone defense bull players of today lack real fundamentals no midrange game no post game no defense and u see it when they go overseas and get banged USA had to put together 3 or 4 dream teams before they could win so the point of what im saying is kobe doesnt play against any better comp then mike did but yet mike still led the leauge in scoring and won multiple mvps and rings one of many things that seperates mike from kobe

  • Jordan was the best and still the best, hands down, Kobe on the other hand, was okay at BEST, considering that he is really good. Jordan on his prime dominated the NBA, period, Kobe only dominates if he has a good man in the middle. Go ask Shaq, Gasol and Bynum. Take out his middle man, we will miss him in the post season. Stop arguing if it is close or not, because it is not close. You can put Lebron in the team of Kobe and he will win multiple championships. You cannot say the same with Kobe leading Cleaveland to 2 Best NBA records and 1 cha,pionship finals. Let’s get real people. Let’s give what is due to the team mates of Kobe. It’s not like Kobe won all those champiuonships himself. I can even recall 3 games where he choke and his ass was saved by his team mates. Go ask Fisher,Artest and the guy that they traded to get Artest. I can even tell you guys how the game happened play by play.

  • I was wondering who on the face of this earth would say there isn’t much of a diffrence between a 30.1 points per game career average and a 25.6? Kobe has won 5 NBA titles and MJ 6 NBA titles only because MJ retired for almost 2 seasons, otherwise MJ has 8. MJ has lost 0 NBA titles and Kobe 2. Losing 2 NBA titles automatically takes you out of the running when the person you are running against has lost none! There should be a rule that anyone under 25 years old can’t vote on the subject.

  • I didn’t say there “isn’t much of a difference.” I said it’s close enough to not be considered a huge factor in the comparison. And why does losing two titles take Kobe out of the “running.?” That means he made it, right? I must say you must not have read the opening paragraph, which clearly states Jordan is the best but if there were a player that could even be compared to him on any level it is Kobe Bryant. There should be a rule that people who don’t understand articles can’t comment on them.

  • ok nicely put but remember that jordan did play against real legends and beat them since the beginning of his career. he played tough defences that will knock u out if u wanted to drive in the lane where i don’t think kobe would be able to score the same points against defenses like this not to mention competition like magic,bird,dr j,malone,barkly,ewing,reggie,shaq,morning,clyde,robinson,rodmen,dumars,thomas,ehlo,dominick,gary payton,shawn kemp,starks,oakly,smith,larry jhonson,kareem,mchale,robert parris,motumbo,hakeem,& so on & so on no disrespect to the players know in days & in my opinion this is why the NBA is not the same is because not to many players have heat & play to win anymore know in days its all about the money not like before it was about wining & wining only
    sorry guys nobody is even close as far as kobe if u take away shaq i don’t think kobe would have won the first 3 rings & if u take away gasol i don’t know about the last 2 ether but jordan had nobody to take some attention from him like kobe even do they both had good teammates jordan still comes out far far away from kobe. i would have to say that kobe still is the closes player to jordan & the reason kobe improved his game after the first 3 rings is because after shaq was gone phil asked jordan to talk to kobe & teach him some moves so their u have it

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