(After the 2009 NBA Finals, I revisited this topic with some suggestions for the second half of Kobe’s career.)
There’s a lot of crap in my life that I’m sick of. Websites that make you register. “Green” vehicles that get 22 miles per gallon. Stores that call you a “guest” instead of a customer—I mean, WTF? If you were a guest at my house and I made you pay $10 bucks to use my wireless network, would you ever come back?
Anyway, with the NBA Finals underway, there’s a lot of talk about whether or not Kobe Bryant is as good as Michael Jordan. After Game 4, in which the Celtics stormed back to win from a 20+ point deficit in Los Angeles, while Kobe got shut down faster than clicking hardrive at an IT convention, most of that is gone.
But, being the objective guy I am, I’ve decided to compile a list of things at which Kobe Bryant is superior to Michael Jordan:
- Whining – after every drive that couldn’t have been made with a blindfold on, even the ones where he scores, Kobe turns to the ref and shouts, making some gesture to indicate that his jersey was tugged or his arm was held. Jordan just backpedaled down the court and played defense—better than Kobe does.
- Retiring – Kobe could still blow this one. He currently has zero failed retirements to Jordan’s two, but he’s just so freakin’ unpopular with teammates and standoffish with fans that I can’t imagine anyone would want him back.
- Dodging Rape Allegations – Honestly, this one might just be a trick of circumstance. I feel like if Jordan ever had to dodge any rape allegations, he would have done so better than Kobe.
- Gambling - I could be way off on this one, but numerous people claim to have won tremendous sums of money from MJ, including one claim in excess of $1,000,000. Kobe might have similar losses that I just don’t know about, but in my experience, only interesting people gamble.
- Stonewalling - Seriously, if I were to engage in some sort of criminal conspiracy with with either Kobe or MJ, I would go with Kobe, since he’s really good at being cold, unfriendly, and not talkative. That’ll come in handy, should he be taken into custody. Jordan would be all garrulous, charming the cops and trying to sell them McDonald’s or Nike or whatever.
- Wearing an Arm Sock – Grasping for straws, I know. But Jordan never wore an arm sock. Kobe wins by default.
Now lets compare this to the list of things in which Jordan’s skill exceeds Kobe’s:
- Basketball – No contest here. 6 titles, 5 MVPs, and no 20+ point comebacks in the Finals by opposing teams on his home court vs. 1 MVP and no titles without Shaq (though a 2008 title is still possible). Jordan also did it against tougher competition.
- Marketing – The fact that Kobe plays with a friggin’ undershirt on but MJ remains the Hanes spokesman speaks volumes about the divergence in natural salesmanship between the two. Kobe couldn’t sell smack to a junkie, where Jordan could get one clean just by flashing a smile.
- Acting – Jordan has a number of film credits (though not quite as many as Shaq), including the 1998 feature Space Jam, a film that was built around the MJ brand. He also appeared in real movies like He Got Game. Kobe just does a lot of talk shows.
- Baseball – During retirement #1, Jordan played poorly on a minor league baseball team. He also bought them a bus, but still, he didn’t look entirely out of place on that level. Kobe has yet to play professional baseball.
- Changing Jerseys – “When I come back like Jordan, wearin’ the four-five“ . MJ briefly played with the #45 jersey upon his return to the Bulls because his signature #23 had already been retired. I don’t see any #8 hanging from the rafters at the Staples Center, do you?
- Being a Teammate – Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant – Jordan made all these players better. He pressured them to succeed, but he never lectured them or chewed them out. He earned their respect. Kobe, not so much.
- Trivial Pursuit – This is just a guess. But Jordan has three years of study on an academically-eligible-to-compete level at North Carolina. Kobe did not attend college. (Related – how sick would it be to see a fourth Jordan comeback to play and complete his degree at UNC?
So yeah. Clearly no contest here. LeBron is already a better comparison to MJ, and he doesn’t even have titles yet.
Now if only I could get the New York Times to stop making me register.