rhpooley

Deconstructing Kobe the Great

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2012 at 3:06 pm

In 16 seasons, Kobe Bryant has never led the league in Win Shares or Win Shares/48 Minutes. He has been the best guard in the NBA only twice. And, most damningly, he has been the best player on his team just 5 times.

This wouldn’t be a problem for one of the better players to ever play the game. However, Kobe is often perceived as one of the greatest. The biggest problem you’ll encounter when evaluating Kobe Bryant’s entire career is the amount of time you’ll be forced to spend undoing a number of perceived “truths” about him.

The notion that he is in same stratosphere as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (9 WS/48 titles), Wilt Chamberlain (8) and Michael Jordan (8) is an incredible misconception. The idea that he is as good as David Robinson (5) or LeBron James (4) is wrong, as well. Kobe is a spectacular player, but people have an unfortunate inclination to go top-shelf when discussing his place in history.

Take a look at how Kobe has finished each season, and consider the players who outperformed him….

Season: Win Shares (League Rank); Win Shares-per-48-Minutes (League Rank)

1996-97: 1.8 WS (205th); .079 WS/48 (DNQ)
1997-98: 6.3 WS (68th); .147 WS/48 (37th)
1998-99: 5.2 WS (31st); .130 WS/48 (50th)

1999-00: 10.6 WS (12th); .202 WS/48 (7th)
Better player(s): Teammate Shaquille O’Neal (1st; .283) and PG John Stockton (5th; .222)

2000-01: 11.3 WS (14th); .196 WS/48 (10th)
Better player(s): Teammate Shaquille O’Neal (2nd; .245), PG John Stockton (6th; .216), SGs Vince Carter (8th; .208) and Ray Allen (7th; .211)

2001-02: 12.7 WS (7th); .199 WS/48 (8th)
Better player(s): Teammate Shaquille O’Neal (1st; .262) and PG John Stockton (6th; .200)

2002-03: 14.9 WS (5th); .210 WS/48 (6th)
Better player(s): Teammate Shaquille O’Neal (2nd; .250)

2003-04: 10.7 WS (10th); .210 WS/48 (3rd)
Better player(s): None at G, SG or on LAL. Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan were substantially better.

2004-05: 8.1 WS (31st); .145 WS/48 (38th)
Better player(s): PGs Steve Nash (9th; .203), Chauncey Billups (10th; .202), Stephon Marbury (17th; .171), Gilbert Arenas (19th; .169), Damon Jones (25th; .162), Antonio Daniels (26th; .160) and Larry Hughes (29th; .157), SGs Manu Ginobili (5th; .240), Dwyane Wade (16th; .177), Jason Terry (18th; .171), Ray Allen (21st; .168), Vince Carter (28th; .159), and Reggie Miller (31st; .151)

2005-06: 15.3 WS (4th); .224 WS/48 (7th)
Better player(s): SG Dwyane Wade (4th; .239)

2006-07: 13.0 WS (3rd); .199 WS/48 (8th)
Better player(s): PGs Steve Nash (4th; .225) and Chauncey Billups (5th; .216)

2007-08: 13.8 WS (4th); .208 WS/48 (8th)
Better player(s): PGs Chris Paul (1st; .284) and Chauncey Billups (4th; .257), SG Manu Ginobili (6th; .232)

2008-09: 12.7 WS (7th); .206 WS/48 (7th)
Better player(s): Teammate Pau Gasol (5th; .223), PG Chris Paul (2nd; .292), SGs Dwyane Wade (4th; .232) and Brandon Roy (6th; .223)

2009-10: 9.4 WS (21st); .160 WS/48 (25th)
Better player(s): Teammate Pau Gasol (5th; .220), PGs Chauncey Billups (11th; .182), Steve Nash (17th; .178) and Deron Williams (19th; .177), SGs Dwyane Wade (3rd; .224), Manu Ginobili (6th; .216) and Brandon Roy (14th; .180)

2010-11: 10.3 WS (14th); .179 WS/48 (17th)
Better player(s): Teammates Pau Gasol (3rd; .232) and Lamar Odom (16th; .184), PGs Chris Paul (4th; .232) and Derrick Rose (9th; .208), SGs Dwyane Wade (6th; .218) and Manu Ginobili (12th; .195)

2011-12: 5.8 WS (22nd); .141 WS/48 (42nd)
Better player(s): Teammates Pau Gasol (21st; .173) and Andrew Bynum (10th; .199)

Note: Minimum 2,000 Minutes Played for WS/48 Leaders in all seasons but 98-99 and 11-12 (min. 1,220 Minutes Played)

Here’s how Kobe has ranked every season, among all guards (G), shooting guards (SG) and Lakers (LAL) in WS/48:

SEA          G       SG       LAL
96-97                DNQ
97-98         17       10       4
98-99         17       9         2
99-00         2         1         2
00-01         4         3         2
01-02         2         1          2
02-03         1         1          2
03-04         1         1          1
04-05         13       6          4
05-06         2         2          1
06-07         3         1          1
07-08         4         2          1
08-09         4         3          2
09-10         7         4          2
10-11          5         3          3
11-12          12       6          3

There’s an unhealthy tradition of falsifying Kobe’s legacy. Since 06-07, Kobe has been inappropriately selected to the All-NBA First Team. Check out where Kobe was selected versus where he deserved to be placed, based on his WS/48 ranking among all guards:

99-00: Selected to All-NBA 2nd Team // Deserved to place on All-NBA 1st Team
00-01: All-NBA 2nd Team // All-NBA 2nd Team
01-02: All-NBA 1st Team // All-NBA 1st Team
02-03: All-NBA 1st Team // All-NBA 1st Team
03-04: All-NBA 1st Team // All-NBA 1st Team
04-05: All-NBA 3rd Team // None
05-06: All-NBA 1st Team // All-NBA 1st Team
06-07: All-NBA 1st Team // All-NBA 2nd Team
07-08: All-NBA 1st Team // All-NBA 2nd Team
08-09: All-NBA 1st Team // All-NBA 2nd Team
09-10: All-NBA 1st Team // None
10-11: All-NBA 1st Team // All-NBA 3rd Team

Hopefully you’ll take away a few different things from this.

  • Pau Gasol and Shaquille O’Neal were the biggest contributors on the only Lakers teams to truly find regular-season success during Kobe Bryant’s career.
  • For the 10-11 and 11-12 seasons, Kobe was the third best player on his team.
  • Being named MVP in 07-08 was absolutely preposterous as he was not worthy of All-NBA First Team. (Kevin Garnett and Chris Paul were much more viable MVP candidates that season.)

There simply hasn’t been a full season in Kobe’s career in which he was the best player in the league. That’s the difference between Kobe Bryant and the greatest players ever. He’s hasn’t dominated the game the way the greats once did. It was Shaq, not Kobe, who consistently led the NBA playoffs in Win Shares and WS/48. It was Kobe who scored 81 points in a game, and then finished the season behind Dirk Nowitzki, Chauncey Billups, and LeBron James.  He’s been a consistently great part of the game, but not even a sixth title will put him in the same tier as Michael.

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