Kobe Bean Bryant is finally stepping down from his professional basketball career after 20 years of infallible commitment. Amongst his many successes, he has become a 17-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, a 12-time member of the All Defensive team and achieved a phenomenal 5 NBA Championship titles. He has been recognised for playing the most seasons in one team, demonstrating his fantastic work-ethic and dedication.
Despite his spotless reputation in the NBA amongst fans, there are a few other basketball stars who may challenge him for the top spot. Shaquille O’Neal, former Los Angeles Lakers player, almost equals Kobe’s top statistics, even considering the significant height and size difference (Shaq 2.16m, Kobe 1.98m). To compare the two directly, Shaq has strength, size and skill on his side, whereas Kobe has rare athleticism, skill and the incredible ability to shoot from all regions of the court.
Going even further back, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, who also reached 20 seasons and is most famously known for his skyhook, tops the leaderboard in terms of career points with a sum of 38,387. He is followed by Karl Malone with 36,928 and in 3rd place stands Kobe with an impressive 33,029, at the time of writing. Some may argue that Kareem and Malone only have so many points due to the lack of talented competitors during that era, and the fact that referees were not as strict as they are now. However, this is still an extremely contentious and relevant debate, despite the sport's development in recent years.
Despite these potential challengers, the age-old choice has always been between Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan was one of the best players ever to step foot into the NBA, and through the eyes of many, the all time best. Being a fan of Jordan myself, I may be tempted to sway you, but it is fair to claim that Jordan had unrivalled ability. Within Jordan’s career he received a total of 6 MVP titles, emphasising his consistency and talent in his 15-year career. Both players are two of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history. Although they played 8 games against each other, they dominated two different eras, with Jordan’s career spanning 1984 to 2003, with several periods of retirement, and Bryant’s career beginning in 1996.
Considering both players were the Shooting Guard, one can compare Kobe’s favourable three-pointers and his original style of play, and Jordan's outstanding work ethic and his trademark fade-away shot, which ultimately made Chicago Bulls one of the greatest teams in history. Despite Jordan paying respect to Kobe recently in an NBA league game, he opposed Kobe’s criticism of the 'Dream Team'. "Remember now, they learned from us. We didn’t learn from them". I believe this quote sums up the modern game, how the youth learn from the veterans of the sport, watching and analysing how they play and move.
There is a threatening impact from the youth within the game; rising stars such as Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving are all still in their early 20s. Golden State Warriors' Point Guard, Stephen Curry in particular is also a hopeful prospect, as he has already accumulated an MVP and an NBA Championship title. The ‘baby-faced assassin’ is set for success, but whether he competes to Kobe’s standard is another challenge altogether.
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