Kobe v. LeBron: 627 Games

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Through 8 seasons in the NBA, LeBron James has played in 627 regular season games; the exact same number of games played by Kobe Bryant in his first 9 seasons. I thought I’d match up their numbers over their first 627 games and see what sticks out. The results should exploit some similarities and differences between two superstars early in their careers; each argued at one point to have been the best in the world.

LeBron has played over 3,000 more minutes than Kobe had in as many games, so the totals are of little use. However the Per-36 and Advanced stats should be of some interest. In red are some of the more glaring differentials.

What about what Kobe has done since then? The numbers from the 6 most recent seasons are generally better than those from his first 9 seasons. Below is a chart comparing Kobe’s numbers from 1997 to 2005 with his numbers from 2006 to 2011. This time red is used to signify a statistical improvement.

Perhaps the most notable change has been in his improved scoring. From 1997 to 2005, Kobe averaged 23 points per-36-minutes. Since then, he’s averaged 27.4 points per-36-minutes. It’s not necessarily improved efficiency that’s yielded Kobe a substantial 4.4-point increase. Yes, all of his shooting percentages have improved, but not by much: FG% up .7%; 3P% up 1.1%; FT% up 1.3%; TS% up 1.2%; eFG% up 1.5%.

The change can be attributed more directly to Kobe’s heightened usage. He’s shooting more from the field (17.8 FGA/36-min from 97-05; 20.9 FGA/36-min from 06-11), getting to the line more often (7.2 FTA/36-min from 97-05; 8 FTA/36-min from 06-11), and turning the ball over less often (TOV% 12.2% from 97-05; 10.5% from 06-11); all contributing to an increase in USG% (29.6% in 95-05; 33.9% 06-11).


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