(Jump) Shots Fired

 Every now and then people ask me a few NBA questions but I never really get a chance to give them a detailed explanation in my answer. This happens mostly on Twitter where I am limited to 140 characters. So I am now starting a bi-weekly segment here on the site titled (Jump) Shots Fired in which I answer some of these questions. I received a few questions this week and they haven’t all made it into this week’s post, but fear not I will get to them soon enough. With that said, let’s get to it….

If Kobe’s not better than Michael Jordan in your books, what more does he have to do to get there?
-Ben from Montreal, Canada

For as long as Kobe Bryant has been in the league, the comparisons to MJ have persisted. However, for all their similarities, there is one undeniable point in which they are completely different: almost every year that Kobe Bryant has played, there has been a legitimate debate over whether Kobe was indeed the best player in the league. Indeed, players such as Tracy McGrady, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson and LeBron James have all at one point in time been considered to be the best players in the league while Kobe Bryant was in the league.

In contrast, this was never debated when Michael Jordan played. Other than possibly his rookie season and his final two years in the league with the Wizards, not once did anyone wonder if there was a better player in the league than his Airness. The best way to illustrate this is to have a look at the accolades/awards that both have amassed in their respective careers (by the way the former Tar Heel played 15 seasons in the NBA while Bryant is now playing in his 15th season):

Michael Jordan
Kobe Bryant
Finals MVPs
Finals Record
Defensive Player of the Year
1st Team All-NBA
1st Team All-Defense

The argument that some might make here is that Kobe Bryant got robbed of at least one MVP award and I will happily concede that point. Mind you, these same fans fail to remember that Michael Jordan was also robbed of an MVP award during the 1996-97 season. Indeed, Karl Malone won the MVP award that year despite the fact that MJ averaged 29.6 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game and 4.3 assists per game….on a team that went 69-13 (that’s one of the best records of all time by the way). So no matter how you slice it, Bryant is short four MVPs to Jordan. And although the hardware isn’t absolutely necessary to make a player’s case, he does need to have some; and clearly Bryant is lacking in that department. If we are going to anoint the Black Mamba as the greatest of all time, shouldn’t he at least have more than one MVP award (and I’m thinking at least three)? Hell, before we even get to MJ, we would have to agree that Kobe Bryant is better than these guys:
-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
-Larry Bird
-Wilt Chamberlain
-Bill Russell
-Hakeem Olajuwon
-Tim Duncan
-Shaquille O’Neal

Which leads to the next question…

Kobe Bryant has officially passed Magic Johnson, right?
-Mike, from New York

Not quite. Expectations tend to be high for rookies that come into the NBA with a high pedigree. And although no one really expected Bryant to be a star in his first season, there was still the expectation that he would one day in fact be great. And he did just that, become great. But prior to that, we witnessed Kobe Bryant fire up air balls in the playoffs against the Jazz and be somewhat of a nuisance to the progress of his team early on.

Magic Johnson on the other hand, came in with huge expectations in his rookie season because his Michigan State Spartans had defeated Larry Bird’s undefeated Indiana State Sycamores in the NCAA championship game. But what did Magic do with those predictions? He surpassed them and then some. In his first ever NBA season, Magic Johnson averaged 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 9.4 assists during the 1980 NBA playoffs on his way towards winning an NBA championship and an NBA Finals MVP. Yes, all in his rookie year.

Magic Johnson didn’t stop there either. He went on to win two more NBA Finals MVP trophies, collect three League MVP awards and nine All-NBA 1st Team selections. Magic Johnson carried the label of superstar from day one that he hit the NBA hardwood and never relinquished it.

Kobe Bryant on the other hand was only unilaterally seen as a star by his fourth season in the league when his team won the NBA title. The best non sports related analogy for this would be comparing Michael Jackson’s entire brilliant musical career to Eminem’s stardom. Marshal Mathers is great in his own right (and I mean absolutely freaking great), but Michael Jackson amazed us all at a truly young age given the fact that he was so gifted, but he still managed to become bigger down the road than anyone could have ever imagined.

So has Kobe Bryant surpassed Magic Johnson? No. And also, if Michael Jordan is considered better than Magic Johnson, there is no way that Kobe Bryant can touch his status right now.

When does Carmelo Anthony become a New York Knick?
-George from Denver, Colorado

If Denver is truly serious about not losing Carmelo Anthony for nothing, this trade needs to happen in mid December when free agents who signed their contracts during the offseason are eligible to be traded.

Word on the street is that Melo’s preferred destinations are New York and Chicago. This matters in the grand scheme of things because if those are the only places that he would agree to sign an extension with, it means no other team is going to want to take the gamble of trading for him and risk losing him for nothing. Consequently, Chicago and New York are essentially bidding against one another for Anthony’s services. The drawback however is that I doubt New York or Chicago will be willing to offer their best trade offers when the trade deadline rolls around because they know that they will have a shot at getting the former Syracuse star in the summer of 2011.

Let’s be honest, the longer Denver waits to trade him, the more desperate they will become to get any type of value for Melo. And this early in the season, his value is pretty high.

Is this the year that Durant outshines LeBron?
-Fabrice, from Montreal, Canada

After his performance in the World Championships this past summer, all anyone could talk about was how great Durant looked in leading Team USA to a gold medal and the prospects of him winning the MVP trophy this season. Also, after watching LeBron James’ “The Decision”, fans were even more appreciative of Durant’s low key personality when he announced on Twitter that he had signed an extension to remain with Oklahoma City. Given these set of circumstances, Durant was thrust into the spotlight as the NBA’s next great superstar and some people in the media even predicted that the Thunder’s star would win a championship prior to King James.

You would think that all those things would have elevated KD past the Heat star but they have not yet. With everyone tuning in hoping to watch the Heat fail, they end up all watching LeBron James play and actually play quite well. In contrast, the Thunder need to be on national television more often and also need to win at a relatively high clip in order to get any type of publicity. Not convinced?

Have a look at the best teams in the NBA (by record):
1. New Orleans Hornets (9-1)
2. San Antonio Spurs (9-1)
3. Los Angeles Lakers (10-2)
4. Boston Celtics (9-2)
5. Orlando Magic (8-3)

And yet, the Miami Heat have their own section on ESPN (titled the Heat Index). Consequently, James is fed to the world on a daily basis. Miami and OKC both have identical records at 7-4 and yet Durant does not benefit from the same type of media coverage. So if KD is truly going to outshine the self-proclaimed Chosen One this season, his team is going to have to win at a higher rate and they are going to have to beat some of the teams listed above.

Karl Malone has scored 36,928 points throughout his NBA career. Does Kobe Bryant’s wife count in his point total?
-Shyne, Sbgorillas.com.

I asked that question on Twitter earlier this week and Lakers fans were none too happy about it. Come on guys, lighten up!

If you have any questions you want answered in this section, please leave them in the comments section or email me at Shyne@Sbgorillas.com.


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