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Avery Johnson: Kobe “could be 1-A” to Jordan’s 1-B

Dec 12, 2010, 10:13 PM EDT

Kobe Bryant with Michael Jordan Getty Images

In a story that’s sure to invite no comments below, Avery Johnson today essentially said he believes Kobe Bryant to be “as great” as Michael Jordan. From the New York Post:

“[Bryant] could arguably be 1. In some polls, he’ll be 2,” the Nets coach said yesterday about the players he has seen since he entered the NBA in 1988. “He could be 1-A and Jordan can be 1-B or Jordan, some polls they’ll be flipped.

“Fortunately I had a chance to play against both of them and now played and coached against Kobe. And boy, sometimes they’re looking like the same player.”

I’m sure none of you have any comments about this.

Bryant recently passed John Havlicek for 11th and should he keep up his expected production, will likely finish this season in the top six. With so many years in front of him, he’s got a shot at reaching Jordan. If he were to continue to average his career average of 25 points a game (not likely), it would take him a little more than 3 seasons to get there, playing 82 games a year. It’s out there but not unreasonable given Bryant’s work ethic. He will very likely end up with six rings to match Jordan, only one MVP but many, many people feel he deserves more.

So on this Sunday night after the Lakers won another uninspired game against the Nets, that’s the question: Is Avery Johnson nuts, or does he have a point? Has Bryant hit the point where we really need to start looking at whether he’s as good as Jordan or not?


  1. leearmon - Dec 12, 2010 at 10:36 PM

    I wouldn’t go as far and say Kobe is AS GOOD as Jordan, but when you break down his resume and accomplishments its hard not to say he is in the ballpark. Coming into this season Kobe has played 14 seasons, in those 14 seasons he has appeared in the NBA finals 7 times. For you math majors thats 50% of the time he’s been in the NBA he has been in the NBA Finals. Of those 14 years he obviously has won 5 championships. Again simple math tells you that he has won a title over a third of the time he’s been in the league. That has to speak for something. He has been the most dominant player of this generation. Shaq will go down as a top 5 center, Duncan IMHO is the best PF of all-time, Kobe has won more titles than both of them. Ask yourself this one question, if Dr. J, George Gervin, Dominique Wilkins, Clyde Drexler or any other wing player of a past generations had the same resume as Kobe how would we view them? I think we tend to knock this current generation of players, and not fully appreciate their talents and skill on an all-time level as we should. There is no question that Kobe is among the best ever, and has as good of shot as anyone post M.J. to take home the title of G.O.A.T.

    P.S. he did score 81 in a game, and led a team with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown into the playoffs. Who else could have done that?

    • passerby23 - Dec 13, 2010 at 12:16 AM

      This debate may go on, but Jordan in my mind is still top of the heap by a long shot. Kobe may tie or eclipse Jordan in titles, but I don’t really view that as a comparative advantage. Jordan missed two full seasons at the prime of his career on championship-calibre teams and then came back with 30 games left in 1995. Then he retired at the top of his game in 1998 on a team that could’ve easily won another couple of titles. Any astute basketball observber recognizes that Jordan could’ve just easily won every NBA title from 1991-2000 if he had been in the league and the Bulls team kept together.

      Moreover, the real beauty in Jordan’s legacy is that he won with pedestrian frontlines in terms of scoring. There was never any dispute that it was Jordan’s team. Kobe won three championships with Shaq in which Shaq was the NBA Finals MVP every year. He then struggled (albeit with far weaker teams) to win, demanding out of LA, until another skilled big man arrived. Would Kobe have won with Jordan’s big men? That’s the real question. To me, the answer is a resounding no.

      You ask who could’ve led a team into the playoffs with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown starting other than Kobe? I think Jordan could’ve done that and maybe even beaten Phoenix. Recall Kobe sulking and opting not to take a shot in the second half of a game in that series. Would Jordan have ever done that?

      On top of all of that, you’ve got Jordan’s career scoring averages and the outright fear he struck in opponents and I don’t think it’s even that close of a comparison.

      • davidly - Dec 13, 2010 at 6:35 AM

        I agree with your end assessment, especially regarding on the court tenacity.

        And, yes, MJ could’ve won eight straight (more than that, post 98). But, in fairness, he retired. That has to count for something. Kobe played through a pretty rough period, through several sub-par lineups and coaching changes. It doesn’t matter why those changes came about so much as the fact that he continued to play.

        Additionally, and again in fairness: Jordan had Pippen at his side for all six titles. And he had Cartwright and Grant for the first three, and Rodman and Kukoc for the second three.

        We can praise Odom and Fisher all we want, and they deserve some cred. And Gasol is a talented big man. But Pippen and Rodman they ain’t. Do you remember the Orlando series and how Rodman outplayed Shaq whenever PJ gave him that assignment?

        So I agree that Jordan is the greatest of all time, all things considered. But I base my assessment more on just having seen them play. Jordan’s amazing feats on the court are simply too numerable to be overshadowed at this point.

      • sthung - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:34 AM

        I totally agree with you about MJ could win NBA titles from 1991 to 2000. Like you said, KB won the first 3 with Shaq. Consider the following if MJ was playing with Shaq, how many they could win? When MJ retired the 2 full seasons, I just keep up with the scores and hardly watch a full game. When MJ came out of retirement, I started to watch the games again. I asked this questions many times, maybe it is just the basketball fall I know, they all agree with me. If KB retire now or winning couple more titles, will people miss him as much as basket fan were to MJ? The best way to find out is to check the ratings from the TV stations.

  2. fouldwimmerlaik - Dec 13, 2010 at 2:05 AM

    Well said, leearmon. I am a Kobe fan, but I know reality too. Kobe may be mentioned with Jordan’s name… but to say that they are equal if not Kobe even better… that’s pushing it.

    Not yet anyway.

    Jordan’s legacy is compelling due to his championship consistency in a tight span of eight years. Kobe’s has a 7 year gap between Ring number 3 and Ring Number 4 although he had 2 NBA Finals appearance in between.

    Methinks if Kobe can manage a four-peat, maybe we can start seriously comparing him with Jordan.

    At the moment I’m still thinking of comparing him with Magic or even Bird. But why do I have the uneasy feeling that I still shouldn’t even think about that?

    • sanvara - Dec 13, 2010 at 4:28 AM

      “At the moment I’m still thinking of comparing him with Magic or even Bird. But why do I have the uneasy feeling that I still shouldn’t even think about that?”

      Kobe has already passed Bird. Kobe is at Magic’s level right now. Another ring or two and Magic is in Kobe’s rear view mirror and Kobe is bearing down on Jordan and Kareem.

  3. sanvara - Dec 13, 2010 at 4:24 AM

    It’s a very fair opinion for someone to say Jordan was better but the people that say Jordan is so far out ahead and it’s not even close are just not being objective. Common sense tells us Kobe is right up there. In the past 40 years how many NBA players have five rings or more and have been a league MVP? Jordan, Kareem, Magic, Kobe….anyone else?

  4. zblott - Dec 13, 2010 at 5:11 AM

    Kobe is WAY not in the MJ ballpark. Here is a breakdown of some of the greatest players ever:

  5. davidly - Dec 13, 2010 at 6:41 AM

    If we’re gonna use championships as a ruler, we have to consider more than the number of finals victories and go back and watch every playoff game. Jordan would win hands down. Then comes Bill Russell. Then maybe Magic or Kareem. I think Bryant is somewhere just in front of Tim Duncan and Larry Bird.

    Let’s see what happens come June. If he blows us all away by willing the Lakers to another finals victory, then he will have changed the conversation.

    • downtowndanny - Dec 13, 2010 at 11:11 AM

      scotty pippen, rodman, horace grant, jphn paxson, & steve kerr. you take any one of these guys from those Bulls teams and Mike doesn’t have as many rings.
      Kobe has done almost as much, in terms of rings as Mike with less, no disrespect to L.O., Pau, or Fish but the aforementioned were a grade above the guys Kobe has with him.

      • davidly - Dec 13, 2010 at 12:42 PM

        I agree with you about Pippen and Rodman (see my reply to passerby23 above). But I still think Jordan was better. It’s mostly based on watching both of them play rather than the numbers.

    • passerby23 - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:20 AM

      If we go by the numbers, Jordan was/is the better player:

      Greater career scoring average (30 ppg vs. Kobe 25 ppg)
      Jordan is the better rebounder.
      Jordan is the better passer.
      Jordan turned the ball over less.
      Jordan averaged more steals.
      Jordan had a much better field goal % (50% vs. Kobe 45%)

      From an observational standpoint, Jordan had the more polished post-up game. While Kobe’s is solid, for Jordan, it didn’t matter what the defender did. He made or missed based entirely on his own doing. And, as I mentioned, Jordan did it all without one dominant scoring big man his entire career. Quite a feat! There seems to be almost universal agreement that the Bulls would’ve been favored to win even more championships if Jordan had played the whole decade and the late 90s Bulls weren’t broken up.

  6. hnirobert3 - Dec 13, 2010 at 7:43 AM

    I’m not a Kobe guy, but while he is the top dog of this generation, he’s still nowhere near MJ’s stature. It’s more than just numbers or championships. Would MJ have had the type of game Kobe did in last years game 7? Did MJ ever whine and ask to be traded? That’s all you need to know.

    • downtowndanny - Dec 13, 2010 at 11:03 AM

      what you fail to note, is no MJ didn’t ask to be traded, but he did leave the team after the 3 peat because Jerry Krause brought in Toni Kukoc to be the teams next star. So MJ went off to play baseball and watched as The Waitor failed to bring in another ring. MJ didn’t like the moves management was making and basically felt disrespected. He came back to of course win again, but to moreso prove a point. Kobe learned his game from Mike clearly, but as any student teacher relationship the pupil is suppose to surpass his master

  7. ocgunslinger - Dec 13, 2010 at 10:17 AM

    As a general manager I would take………either one and couldn’t go wrong. Both are one-of-a-kind and were/are impressive players to say the least. But I lean to Kobe.

  8. downtowndanny - Dec 13, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    Kobe is better than Mike, no disrespect to his airness, but the Kobester has an all around better game than Mike. Nobody wants to say it (big ups Avery) but it’s true. The difference to me, is MJ had a presence on the court that sparked fear, so guys would sit back and watch him instead of guard him (with a few exceptions of course) whereas cats respect Kobes game, but their pride won’t let them fear him as much.

    • jumpman023 - Dec 26, 2010 at 3:51 AM

      These folks that prefer Kobe over MJ, are you serious? I guess you would choose Kobe over The Big O also, huh? Being on TV in the modern era doesn’t make you great, and having less competition to play against means something. You want to debate that?

  9. jumpman023 - Dec 26, 2010 at 3:49 AM

    Mr. Moore, please don’t fall into the ‘Is Kobe as the Greatest Of All Time?’ trap. Statistics don’t tell the entire story; Kobe Bryant is not even the greatest LAKER of all time, much less THE G.O.A.T. He is good, great even, but if the NBA viewing public had to pick a starting 5, Michael would be EVERYONE’S first pick, and those that say otherwise are just lying to themselves.

    A.J. seems to miss his gig as a commentator… laughable, but not true. You think think MJ would have allowed LeBron to come into the Mad House on Madison Street, or into the new Chicago Stadium, on CHRISTMAS, and torch his Bulls for a triple double? Ask him now before a Charlotte game, i’m certain he’d just chuckle at you.

    If you think Kobe is the greatest, ask Charles, Magic, Larry, Clyde, John, Patrick, and Karl, but to name a few, if Michael would have allowed that, who they would choose first. Look at that list, and Michael torched them ALL. Sorry, Kobe just doesn’t have the stones to face up to MJ in his heyday. Not in a million years.

    And I cannot ignore that postscript; Michael led six championships (CLEARS THROAT: SIX FINALS MVP’s too, how many has Kobe earned?? Oops, sorry.) with guys like Bill and Bill and Luc as starting centers, so the ‘Smush Parker and Kwame Brown into the playoffs’ comment hold little weight with true students of this game.

  10. ballplayainc - Dec 27, 2010 at 5:14 AM

    Avery Johnson and anybody else on this comment section who actually in their right minds BELIEVE that kobe should be even mentioned in the same breath as Micheal Jordan — has to be out of their sick minds. Come On!!! ARE U SERIOUS!!! – We could debate all day about this but, lets not forget, kobe could not do half the stuff he do today if he was in Jordan era. HELL NAWW!! And I agree Kobe dont have great players to beat every night like Jordan did. You honestly think kobe would survive the bad boys of detroit — and SWEEP them to? HELL NAWW!!! Remember kobe got his first 3 cause he had Shaq, the last one he barely survived, didnt he shoot 5 for 45 in that 7th game? I can sit here and throw u stats all day — i can give you examples and comparisions all day, but come on, aint no way in this world will kobe ever be considered better than Jordan, I mean the man transcended the game, the shorts, the ball head, THE SHOES!! OMG!! You dont see kids lining up outside footlocker trying to get the next kobe shoes — HELL NAWW!!! Come on people, let be real here, I honestly think that the elevation of putting kobe up there is cause some people didnt like Jordan cause he won all the damn time and he could do anything he wanted on a basketball court. I dont have any love for kobe cause if u ask me and im a basketball player — kobe tries to emulate Jordan more than anything. Is he better than Jordan HELL NAWW!! AJ better correct that — JORDAN #1 Kobe would be way below that — he aint that damn good — MJ earned his the hard way — we gave him his respect cause he balled — kobe cries and whines for his……i cant believe this HELL NAWW!!!!

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