Between them, they’ve racked up 10 NBA titles, 32 All-Star appearances and countless victories for their respective teams. They’re easily the two most dominant players of the post-Jordan. Their names alone are synonymous with excellence, invoking a sense of basketball royalty in anyone who hears them uttered, or sees them written.
Two of the baddest dudes to ever bounce a ball.
But which one is better? Which of these two larger-than-life icons of the game will leave behind a greater legacy when they’re gone? A legitimate case could be made for both sides.
In fact, this is a debate that has already been raging on quite heatedly for the last ten years or so. There’s no shortage of previous points and counterpoints to draw from.
However, now that their respective careers are winding down — and Duncan’s Spurs are seemingly poised for another deep playoff run — it seems as good a time as any to take another look at where things stand in the Duncan vs. Kobe dispute. Let’s break this bad boy down:
In terms of their accumulated careers, both of these guys are statistical dynamos for their era. After passing some dude named “Michael Jordan” earlier this season, Kobe is now 3rd on the all-time list in points scored, while Timmy clocks in at a very respectable 15th.
Duncan has also grabbed the 8th most rebounds in the history of the league, and is 6th all-time in blocked shots. Surprisingly enough, Kobe — who has never been known for his passing, to put it politely — ranks 30th on the all-time list in assists, in addition to ranking 14th all-time in steals.
Kobe probably has the more memorable statistical accomplishments, what with his 81 point game and all, but that being said, Duncan’s stats are nothing to sneeze at.
For what it’s worth, Duncan’s career PER of 24.44 would be good for 13th all-time if he retired today, whereas Kobe’s 23.22 PER would place him at 19th.
Duncan also tops Kobe in Win Shares, currently ranking 2nd on the all-time list while Kobe comes in at 8th.
As we all know, each of these guys have an incredible total of five championship rings after Duncan’s Spurs were able to upend the Heat last summer. So counting rings alone isn’t going to solve this one. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Though they’ve each one five rings, Kobe has made seven NBA Finals appearances to only six for Duncan.
Of the six times Duncan’s Spurs have been to the Finals, he’s been the best player on at least three (’99, ’03, ’05) of those teams. Same for Kobe (’08, ’09, ’10).
Kobe has allowed the Lakers to miss the playoffs three times during his tenure with them — failing to make it for the second straight season this year — whereas Duncan has led the Spurs to the playoffs in every single one of his 18 seasons with the team.
Well, after all this deliberation, what I’ve learned is this: that I have no idea which one of these guys is “better,” and trying to decide is the closest thing I’ve ever done to actually splitting hairs.
As of right now, it’s impossible to tell. Their accomplishments — both statistical and team-oriented — are just too similar to draw any real conclusions from. Trying is an exercise in futility.
But ask yourself: what if Duncan were able to lead San Antonio to their sixth title this season? And what if he did this while Kobe sits on his ass, watching the entire postseason from the depths of some cavernous mansion? Could that tip the scales a bit?
It’s this writer’s opinion that it absolutely would tip them a little. In fact, it may tip them a lot.
It would probably be the nail in the coffin of this debate, since Kobe appears to be on his way out the door after next season and the Lakers are highly unlikely to contend.
So ,with that said, get out there and win yourself that title, Timmy — your legacy-contest with Kobe Bryant depends on it, and we all know how much you care about that.