Kobe Bryant: Underrated and Overrated


Nobody in their right minds will ever argue that Kobe Bryant wasn’t a great basketball player. Unfortunately, it seems as though this is the only common ground that both Kobe supporters(he has plenty of them) and detractors(he also has plenty of them) will ever seem to agree on. If you follow the NBA even casually then you know about Kobe Bryant, a star player for one of the most well known and successful franchises in sports history. Yet if you follow the NBA seriously and consider yourself a fan of NBA history like myself, you know Kobe’s career is much more complicated.

Let me just mention that I have always enjoyed watching Kobe Bryant play basketball. I certainly was never a Los Angeles Lakers fan and I certainly never rooted for Kobe’s teams to win, but I could appreciate watching an athlete like Kobe do his work. That being said, the biggest thing I could never stand about Kobe really had nothing to do with Kobe himself, it was his diehard fans. If you talk to a diehard Kobe fan either in person or on the internet, you will quickly see why Kobe has so many detractors. Kobe fans will use his 5 rings as a reason for him being better than other great players with fewer rings, they will also use his legendary 81 point game in 2006 as a reason for him being a top 5 player of all-time or the best Lakers player ever. For a while, I became so damn sick of all these Kobe fans that I became a bit of a Kobe detractor. Then Kobe’s 2013 achilles injury happened.

I don’t need to tell you that Kobe has been a washed up, injury prone, shell of his former self over the last 3 years and how awful the Lakers have been as a team. But Kobe’s decline and the Lakers suckitude over the last 3 seasons actually opened my eyes more to how great Kobe was for nearly a decade and a half. In my opinion, the most impressive feat of Kobe’s career will always be his run of individual greatness from 2001-2013, not his 5 rings or his 81 point game. It was also during the last 3 years when I realized limiting Kobe’s greatness to just 5 rings and 81 points, like his fans so often do, is criminally underrating his career as a whole. To average 28-6-5 over 13 years like Kobe did far exceeds the arguments you will hear from many Kobe fans when talking about his greatness. Even the years in his prime when he didn’t win a title(2003-2008) in which he averaged 30-6-5, show his true greatness more than 5 team accomplishments or an 81 point outburst. Hell, even his 2013 season where he averaged 27-6-6 at age 34 is more impressive than his 5 rings or 81 point game to me. It is because of Kobe’s longevity and consistency that, in my mind, he is a top 11 player of all-time. However, calling him “just” a top 11 player of all-time to Kobe fans will spark outrage, which goes to show why he is overrated at the same time he is underrated.

Kobe Bryant is not a top 10 player of all-time, nor is he the “closest to Michael Jordan” like you will hear so many people say. Kobe’s game might stylistically be the most similar to Michael Jordan’s that we’ve seen, but in terms of dominance the gap between Jordan and Kobe is pretty sizable. Kobe is not the greatest Lakers player of all-time, that honor belongs to Magic Johnson and his all-around dominance. Kobe’s defense has also been overrated for a vast majority of his career. Ever since Shaquille O’Neal left, Kobe was very selective with his defensive effort. Not that it wasn’t understandable considering how much energy he had to exert offensively, but he still didn’t deserve to been seen as a consistent defensive stalwart so late into his career. However, the biggest knock against Kobe, to me, has always been his efficiency(or lack thereof). Kobe NEVER shot above 47% from the field in any season of his career. I understand Kobe took a high number of shots and therefore shouldn’t be expected to shoot around 55%, but it looks bad when so many other high usage Hall of Fame guards like MJ, Dwyane Wade, Jerry West, & Clyde Drexler could shoot above 47% and none of them had peak Shaq to draw defensive attention away from them like Kobe had. Kobe’s efficiency in the NBA Finals is also underwhelming as he is a career 41.2% Finals shooter. Kobe’s “clutch” statistics and efficiency on game winning shots is also much worse than his reputation as a clutch player would lead you to believe.

For this article, I stayed away from Kobe’s off-court life as I’ve never had a problem separating Kobe the player from Kobe the citizen/teammate. My overall feelings about Kobe’s retirement are kind of neutral since I’m neither a diehard fan nor a diehard detractor. However, one thing is for sure, it will be a long time before we see another athlete as polarizing as Kobe Bryant come along, one who stirs up so many emotions and opinions both positive and negative from people who he’s never even met. I’ve never met Kobe and I’m pretty sure I never will, but I will certainly never forget him.



About Emanuel Godina

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