Rants & Raves

(Don Chance)

How Good was Kobe Bryant?  And Who was Better?



Kobe Bryant tragically passed away ono January 26, 2020.  The entire world was shocked when this fine young man left us so tragically.  Since that time, we�ve gotten so wrapped up in the Coronavirus story, but we still remember Bryant�s contribution to sports and life.  We miss him. 

I am not a big NBA fan.  I was in the days of Jordan, Bird, Thomas, Johnson.  I loved the NBA more than anything at that time.  I just don�t care much for it now.  Maybe I�m hust unable to connect with the current generation of players the way I was in the 80s.  Nonetheless, Kobe Bryant�s death has made me look back at his career just to see how good he was. 

In truth, he was very good.  But it is amazing how many players were better.  And most of those that were better haven�t gotten the recognition that he has.  People speak of him in the same breath as Michael Jordan and LeBron James, so he�s viewed as one of the greatest ever.  Let�s take a look.  I think you�ll be surprised. 

I subscribe to a sports stat service, www.sports-reference.com, so I queried the pro basketball database, database, www.basketball-reference.com,  to see who might have been better, and we just don�t realize it.  Bryant was a guard and a shooting specialist, playing 20 seasons and taking 26,200 shots.  So I searched for all guards who had a higher two-point %, a higher three-point %, and a higher free-throw %.  All three conditions must be met.  I also required that the person played at least 10 full season, just so we pick up people who were around long enough to give us a good history of performance.  The results in my mind are stunning. 

There are 13 guards in total who beat Bryant in all three of the key offensive categories.  Three are active (Jose Calderon, Chris Paul, and JJ Reddick) so their stats are changing with every game and of course they could drop out.  Of the 10 remaining players, only Ray Allen and Joe Dumars are in the Hall of Fame. (Interestingly, one of these ten is current Golden State coach, Steve Kerr.)  If you add a fourth category, assists per game, and a fifth category, turnovers per game, where fewer is better, Calderon and Paul also have better stats in all five categories, as does retired player Jeff Hornacek, who is not in the HOF. So, there you have it.  In the five leading offensive categories for a guard, two active players and one retired player who is not in the HOF clearly performed better than Bryant.  Will Calderon and Paul ever be mentioned in the same breath as Bryant?  It�s doubtful.  And what about Hornacek?  He beats Bryant in five offensive categories and cannot get into the HOF.  He just didn�t take enough shots (about 12,000) nor play enough years (14).  At this time, he is still on the ballot, however, so there is hope. 

[Note  Which two guards beat Michael Jordan in the three key offensive categories?  Jeff Hornacek (surprised?) and Steve Nash.  Fortunately, Nash is in the Hall of Fame.  Adding the category of assists, Nash beats Jordan in four categories, while Hornacek is slightly below (his teammate John Stocton was doing all the passing).  Adding the fifth offensive category of turnovers, Hornacek beats Jordan while Nash is slightly behind.  BTW:  Jordan beat Bryant in two-point% , but is slightly below Bryant in three-point % and FT-%.] 

Greatness in sports is determined by performance but perceptions are often different.  Winning championships counts a lot.  Bryant and Jordan have a stack of them and Nash and Hornacek didn�t win any.  But players don�t win championships:  teams do. 

]So, wow many players hav won at least as many championships as Bryant and are not in the HOF?  Six.  Jim Loscutoff (7), Robert Horry (7), Larry Siegfried (5) with Michael Cooper,  Ron Harper, Steve Kerr, Derek Fisher, and Tim Duncan .  Duncan is currently on the ballot, but none of the others have good enough stats.] 

Return to Rants & Raves page

Last updated: April 11, 2020