It's a common tale in the entertainment industry: successful summer blockbusters beget sequels, and if the sequels smash box-office numbers too, third installments won't be far behind. So after garnering more than 6 million views for his first two videos comparing the near-identical on-court styles of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, video editor Youssef Hannoun has taken the next logical step and turned his "no, seriously, these two legendary shooting guards are very similar" series into a trilogy.
Behold Part Three, which Hannoun calls "Identical Plays: The Last Dance," but I've decided to call "Mike and Kobe III: The Search for Spock."
For a third straight summer: Yes, the similarities are remarkable. The immaculate footwork to create space and find openings, the form on the jumper (especially while turning and fading away), the physicalizations and mannerisms — they all clearly indicate that Bryant's not only picked up quite a bit from Jordan over the years, but also worked his tail off to get as close to perfecting those moves and motions as humanly possible. With Bryant nearing the end of a first-ballot Hall of Fame career that's included five NBA titles, two Finals MVP awards, one league MVP and the fourth-most points in NBA history — and counting, with No. 3-ranked Jordan just 592 points ahead — it's clear that the work has paid off handsomely.
Given the response that the last two videos received, I'm betting that an awful lot of fans will respond to this clip by railing on Kobe for biting M.J.'s style. I find it difficult to care too much about that because, y'know, what else was a 6-foot-6 shooting guard whose adolescence and teenage years dovetailed with Jordan's rise to dominance supposed to do? Jordan won four rings and four MVPs between Kobe's ninth and 18th birthdays, and laid out a blueprint for how to serve as the dominant focal point and primary engine of a championship team from the two-guard spot. Why wouldn't Kobe try to follow it? Why should he be denigrated for doing so successfully?
There are plenty of things to bang on Kobe for — the too-frequent long-range shot-jacking, the possession-breaking within the confines of his team's offensive sets, the predilection toward acting as a one-man army even when it didn't necessarily seem necessary, that gross thing about sucking his jersey sweat, etc. — but studying Jordan's game and patterning his own after it, all the way down to the smallest physical elements, doesn't seem like one of them. Well, unless you're Michael himself, of course; then again, though, Jordan himself has acknowledged that Bryant alone among his successors has "done the work to deserve [the] comparison."
There aren't many finer manifestations of the old adage that great artists steal than watching Kobe, undoubtedly one of the greatest players our game's ever seen, flourish with many of M.J.'s moves. And while Kobe says the cycle of affectionate imitation has continued, it remains unclear which (if any) up-and-coming shooting guard will put in the work to be able to be the next contestant on that YouTube-doubling screen a few years down the line; you're going to have get an awful lot of buckets and an awful lot of wins to turn this all-time duet into a three-piece movement.
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