This will be the first installment of many comparing Kobe Bryant’s career to Michael Jordan’s. When comparing two players, let alone two of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball, many factors must come into the equation when trying to assess both players in a fair and balanced comparison. Statistics, accomplishments, eras, teammates, and the competition must all be closely looked at when trying to compare both legends.
Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have had brilliant statistical careers but I am guessing almost everybody thinks Jordan stats are better than Kobe’s. When looking right at the numbers, it makes sense most people perceive this as Jordan beats Kobe in almost every statistical category both defensively and offensively. However, follow me on this journey through statland, and you will see the statistics are much closer than you think between these two legends.
Though Kobe and Jordan are two of the greatest scorers in history, they each have their own unique abilities when it comes to puttng the ball through the hoop. Jordan’s athletic ability allowed him to jump higher and run faster than the rest of the competition. MJ could drive at will and whenever he decided could rise up and shoot a jumper over any defender. It wasn’t until his later years (2nd three-peat) where Jordan couldn’t rely solely on his driving abilities but rather on his mid-range jumper. Kobe Bryant on the other hand, though also an expolsive leaper, didn’t dominate physically/athletically as MJ once did. Because of this, Kobe Bryant has been much more of a jump shooter in his career than Jordan. Jordan’s career scoring average is 30.1 while Kobe’s is 25.3. However, Jordan also averaged career 22.9 shots a game while Kobe has taken 19.3 shots a game (whose the ballhog again?). In his 15 year career, MJ scored 1.3144 points for every shots he has taken (30.1/22.9) on about 49% shooting while Kobe has scored 1.3109 points per shot in his career (25.3/19.3) on about 46% shooting. Wow…well look at this here. I thought MJ was a much more efficient player than Kobe but it turns out, they are pretty much exactly even with their scoring efficiency. Now, I know what the Haters are already thinking so hear me out. Though Jordan has always been a career 50% shooter while Kobe has always hovered in the 45-46% range, Kobe has hit a better percentage of threes while attempting many more. So even though Kobe makes a lower percentage of shots overall than MJ (which makes sense as Jordan was more of a slasher than a jump shooter), Kobe has taken and made a better percentage of three pointers therefore helping his efficiency.
Both Kobe and Jordan’s career stats can fool you a little bit due to the fact both players have unique careers. Jordan retired twice and missed almost his entire second season due to injury while Kobe Bryant was drafted as a 17 year old. Because of this, I found a way to compare both players best seasons against one another without any bias. With MJ, I disregarded his second season (only played in 18 games and averaged only 23 points) his 94-95 season (only played in 20 games and averaged 26 points) and his two seasons with the Wizards. For Kobe, I took away his first three seasons in the NBA which I thought was pretty reasonable considering 1) I took out MJ’s worst four years and 2) MJ was in college during this time. Now, we can compare Jordans best 11 seasons to Kobe’s last (best) 11 seasons. In MJ’s 11 best seasons, he averaged 31.7 points per game on 23.4 shots. In Kobe’s best 11 seasons, he averaged 28.0 points per game, but in only 2 of those 11 seasons did he shoot more than 23.4 shots a game! I will never understand why Kobe Bryant was ever called a ball hog (at least in negative ways) when MJ, the player many consider to be GOAT, attempted way more shots.
Both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have 5 career 60 point games. Here is a list for both:
1) 4/20/86 vs Celtics (playoff game) – 63 points (double overtime)
2) 3/04/87 vs Pistons – 61 points (overtime)
3) 4/16/87 vs Hawks – 61 points
4) 3/28/90 vs Cavaliers – 69 points (overtime)
5) 1/16/93 vs Magic – 64 points (overtime)
1) 12/20/05 vs Mavericks – 62 points (3 quarters)
2) 1/22/06 vs Raptors – 81 points
3) 3/16/07 vs Trailblazers – 65 points (overtime)
4) 3/22/07 vs Grizzlies – 60 points
5) 2/2/2009 vs Knicks – 61 points
Michael Jordan owns the all time playoff single season scoring record with 63 points, but Kobe owns the second highest scoring game in the history of the NBA with 81 points. To go along with this, Kobe has also scored 62 points in 3 quarters outscoring the whole Mavs team by himself before sitting out the fourth (Kobe Bryant is the only player in history to individualy outscore another team through 3 quarters). Kobe would have at least hit the 75-80 point mark if playing the whole game. Unfortunately, Kobe has tallied up a few other games in his career where after catching absolute ridiculous fire, he had to sit out the whole fourth quarter because the Lakers were winning by a large margin. These two instances occured during the 2001-2002 (56 through 3 against Memphis) and 2002-2003 (51 through 3 against Denver) seasons respectively. Summing up – Kobe Bryant could easily have 4 70+ point games if having played the 4th quarter.
MJ never had an entire month where he averaged 40.0 points per game while Kobe has had 3 different months over the course of his career where he averaged 40.0 points per game for the whole month.
1) 2002-2003 – 40.6 points during month of Febuary
2) 2005-2006 – 43.4 points during month of January
3) 2006-2007 – 40.4 points during month of March
* Kobe Bryant is the only player in NBA history to score at least 600 points in the postseason for three consecutive years – 2008, 2009, 2010.
* Both Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan have scored 40 or more points in 9 straight games (record is 14 straight games achieved by Wilt Chamberlin).
* Kobe Bryant and Wilt Chamberlin are the only two players in NBA history to score 50 or more points in 4 consecutive games
March 16, 2007 vs Trailblazers – 65 points
March 18, 2007 vs Timberwolves – 50 points
March 22, 2007 @ Grizzlies – 60 points
March 23, 2007 @ Hornets – 50 points
Michael Jordan owns a career average of 5.3 assists per game while Kobe averages 4.7 assists per game. Again, most people will tell you Jordan is a better passer and is more unselfish than Kobe, but just like with scoring, we need to dissect the numbers a little bit more before coming up with a conclusion.