Yahoo Contributor Network
This article was created on the Yahoo Contributor Network, where users like you are published on Yahoo every day. Learn more »Yahoo Contributor Network
Miami fan: Kobe Bryant is no Dwyane Wade
One of the oldest sports media and fan pastimes is comparing great players. Because everything isn't as clearly resolved as wins and losses, these debates are driven by a desire to have our doubts addressed and our opinions validated. The fact is, however, the more elaborate and precise statistics to quantify player production become, the harder it is to argue against facts and rely on antiquated cliches to back our opinions.
In an interview to promote his involvement with the video game NBA 2K11, Michael Jordan ranked Kobe Bryant(notes) as a top 10 guard of all time. Many thought this was a defensive and arrogant slight on Kobe, but it's actually a reasonable assessment. In light of the criticism Jordan has endured recently, and the upcoming Heat-Lakers game tomorrow night on TNT, I'd like to take to take this opportunity to side with MJ and dethrone Kobe Bryant as the best player in the NBA and a top 5 player of all time, and suggest that those are distinctions he never deserved.
The first thing you hear when anyone compares Kobe to other greats in the league is: Kobe has the rings. Let's stop right here. This needs to be banished from any conversation concerning individual performance. Winning a championship is a team achievement and as a team concept, it lends little support to any discussion that seeks to compare individual player talents. If you are telling me Kobe is better than Wade for "the rings" cliche, you'd better be ready to say Robert Horry is better than Karl Malone or Charles Barkley for the same reason.
This is the same fallacious reasoning that motivates "experts" to rank Bill Russell atop all time centers, ahead of Wilt, Kareem, Hakeem, Shaq and David Robinson, all of whom had a greater tangible impact on their games. Russell and Kobe are among the greatest to ever play, but they don't deserve an unfair advantage because they were primary, and at times secondary, contributors on great teams.
Just remember the times you've said the Miami Heat won't win this year because their team isn't good enough and stay consistent.
I have to admit: since the Jordan tongue, Kobe's scowl leads the league in symbolism. Unfortunately, this utterly subjective desire hogwash needs to be thrown out of these discussions as well. Simply put, it's unquantifiable and based wholly on speculation. Why should we assume that one player's emotional displays (or histrionics) amount to anything more than a personality characteristic? Why does Kobe want it more than Tim Duncan(notes)? And further, who wants it more than Kevin Garnett(notes)?
Desire belongs to a branch of intangibles that act as the spam of otherwise intelligible dialogue. Romantics at heart, we are drawn to these concoctions because they feed our taste for a caramelized reality with fictional elements, the sweet treat of a good story. We want to believe that hanging tongues, tense jaws and chest pounding are more than just involuntary expressions of our reptilian brain, that they are profound expressions of conviction.
Truthfully, everything that has a major impact on the game is recorded. Good instincts turn up in rebounds, blocks and steals and high basketball IQ ends up on most of a player's stats. If you take smart shots, you're field goal percentage and efficiency rating will be higher.
It's no coincidence that the players that are praised for their intense passion, basketball IQ and instincts are also the leaders in all major career statistics. Let's just make sure we don't ground greatness on completely subjective attributes or give a player an edge over another because of them.
So how do we determine who's better? We watch the games. But since we are not all savants that can remember the outcome of every single play during the regular season and playoffs, there are people recording everything that happens and analyzing it.
The science is called statistics.
Anyone who's interested in quantifying greatness needs to become familiar with statistics. The Player Efficiency Rating (PER), for instance, does an impressive job at rating a player in one statistic. Career leaders in PER include Jordan, LeBron, Wilt, Wade, Kareem, Magic, K. Malone, Kobe, Bird and Hakeem, names that belong on any all time top 20 list. As explained by PER formulator John Hollinger, the PER " sums up all a player's positive accomplishments, subtracts the negative accomplishments, and returns a per-minute rating of a player's performance."
So how does Kobe stack up against LeBron or Wade?
LeBron tops Kobe (and everyone except for Michael Jordan) 26.77 to 23.54, and Wade isn't too far behind with 25.59.
How is this possible, you ask? Isn't Kobe a better shooter than both? Absolutely and I'll take that a step further. He is a better shooter than Michael Jordan was. But, not nearly as good as Ray Allen(notes). Would you say Kobe is better than Jordan, or Ray-Ray is better than Kobe? Have you ever seen Michael Jordan's 3-point shooting percentages his first five years in the league? They make Dwayne Wade look like Reggie Miller.
The trick is taking a more comprehensive approach.
Kobe tops Wade in 3-point percentage, free throw percentage and turnovers. Both average about 25 points per game for their careers and have almost identical rebounding and defensive ratings. Wade, however, tops Kobe in field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage, and true shooting percentage. He also dishes a lot more assists than Kobe and gets more steals steals and blocks.
Statistically, Wade dominates.
The discrepancy between Wade and Kobe becomes even greater in the playoffs and the Olympics.
When it counts .
Wade's playoff stats tower over Kobe's, and we all remember who the most valuable player was for 2008 Redeem Team. Even in the clutch, with less than 5 minutes to play and no team ahead by more than 5 points, Wade outperforms Kobe in creating shots, efficiency and defensive and clutch ratings. Effectively, Wade tops Kobe in almost every possible way.
Kobe, as usual, just takes a lot more shots.
I acknowledge that Kobe has had a larger body of work than Wade has: he's been in the league longer and longevity should play a role in these types of discussions. In fact, he's definitely a top 5 guard of all time.
However, my contention is simply that even though there's more work, on average, it's been of a lower quality than Wade's.
More from the Yahoo! Contributor Network:
Note: This article was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Sign up here to start publishing your own sports content.