Now hear me out I understand Michael Jordan had 2 3-peats,won 10 scoring titles and never lost in the Finals but
Kobe Bryant was one of the biggest what if’s in his career. What if his relationship with Shaquille O’Neal never went south? What if the Lakers immediately retooled around Kobe Bryant allowing him to compete for championships 2004-2007? That was practically the prime of his career.
Jordan played out his prime with and was able to compete for championships due to having Phil Jackson as the head coach and one of the top 50 players of all-time in Scottie Pippen alongside him through his run. Not to take anything away from Jordan but Kobe has the longevity on his side and David Stern vetoed a trade that I believe would have guaranteed Kobe Bryant at least 1 more championship to tie Michael Jordan or surpass him in rings.
Again, Kobe Bryant never got any realistic help until the Lakers traded for all-star power forward Pau Gasol who at the time was arguably the best big in the league after Garnett and Duncan. Chris Paul was in the prime of his career when the Lakers attempted to trade for him, better than Westbrook and Curry at the time and would’ve made Kobe Bryant absolutely lethal allowing to roam more off the ball and play in more of a catch and shoot role while Chris Paul ran the offense.
Chris Paul had the Kevin Durant Warriors on the brink of elimination before suffering a leg injury which kept him out for the last 2 games of the Western Conference Finals. Imagine Chris Paul 6 years prior alongside Kobe Bryant who is a better shooting guard in every possible way and that’s no knock on James Harden who is a top 5 shooting guard all-time as a write this but Kobe Bryant was different.
From Kobe getting MVP chants on the road during his farewell tour, scoring 60 points and carrying the Lakers in the 4th quarter keeping the Utah Jazz from wrapping up the last playoff spot out West, putting the Atlanta crowd in a frenzy with his Mamba Mentality and scoring streaks, Kobe Bryant was the most electrifying and skilled basketball player to ever grace an NBA floor.
So I look at Jordan who was a bit different in the sense that he was never known to be a 3 point sniper, while Kobe was known to be a marksman for his whole career basically. Jordan was a better decision maker and a bit more physically imposing than Kobe, Jordan knew where he wanted to get on the court and there was nothing you could do to stop him from getting there. Kobe Bryant used his elite footwork to create space for jump shots and there was not a shot in the book Kobe could not hit, easily the best tough shot maker of all-time.
Michael was a better rebounder and better leader I believe, Kobe’s leadership style was a bit different than Jordan’s. He would berate teammates in practice, I heard some stories about Michael as well from assaulting Steve Kerr in practice to knocking over Gatorade containers, they were both extremely competitive and the will to win was surreal.
It’s hard to compare the two but I would have loved to see Kobe play out his prime with some help to see if he could’ve got to 6 rings. Imagine if Kobe was able to play with Kawhi and Duncan? Or maybe Carmelo Anthony in New York? or how about alongside Derrick Rose in Chicago? Or maybe with Dirk in Dallas? Durant,Kawhi,LeBron,and even Curry have had the luxury of being able to compete with an above average supporting cast to compete for championships.
LeBron is 34 years old and just missed the playoffs with Lonzo,Ingram, and Kuzma who much better basketball players than Smush,Mihm, and Kwame. What the Lakers do? They traded away those 3 above average players for the best big man in the NBA in Anthony Davis? When the did the Lakers ever do that for Kobe Bryant? Blame him all you want for eating up a ton of the Lakers’ cap space limiting their chances to build a contender around Kobe but I think they could’ve moved Russell,Randle, and maybe another young piece for someone like Carmelo Anthony or maybe even a Kyle Lowry or LaMarcus Aldridge.
To conclude, all the big superstars in the NBA today have a title contending team around them. Kyrie,Durant,Curry,LeBron,Kawhi,Harden, and even Giannis who might not have a superstar alongside him but Khris Middleton is one of the best two way players in the game and top shooting guards in the league. And they also have Brook Lopez who is now a stretch 5 and someone LeBron was drooling over for in Miami the 2013-2014 season but Pat Riley failed to acquire. Imagine Kobe Bryant playing alongside a prime Kevin Garnett 2004-2007 or a prime Dirk Nowitzki? He probably 3 peats those 3 years with either one of those guys, I’ll end it there though.