Evaluating Kobe’s #NBARank

J.M. Poulard —  October 17, 2011

The Los Angeles Lakers have been well represented in #NBARank with four players making the top 50. Indeed, Lamar Odom was rated as the 44th best player in the league, Andrew Bynum as the 30th and Pau Gasol as the 11th. It was clear from the start that Kobe Bryant would be the last player announced, but his spot remained unknown, until now.

With young stars like Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose now making their mark on the league, carrying their franchises and earning the attention from fans all across the world, it’s no surprise that they made the top 10; with Griffin coming in at the 10th spot and Rose at the eighth.

And yet, despite their ascension, they just could not yet outrank the Black Mamba who was rated as the seventh best player in the NBA by the staff of ESPN.COM writers and bloggers.

Bryant’s overall production decreased in comparison to the 2009-10 season, which can easily be attributed to the decrease in his minutes; but he was still one of the best players in the NBA last season.

There is probably a camp that believes that Kobe was robbed and that he should occupy the top spot of these rankings ahead of every other NBA superstar. Indeed, a solid argument could be made that Kobe is a better player than the players left ahead of him (Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade).

The former Lower Merion high school star blends a deadly jump shot with exquisite footwork, terrific ball handling skills, court vision and a series of fakes to more often than not dominate his opposition from the guard position.

In addition, Bryant can play both guard spots as well as the small forward position to give the Lakers the versatility to throw out different line ups to take advantage of mismatches. Kobe’s scoring is lethal, but the attention he attracts helps him create shots for others, which in turn makes the Lakers one of the best offenses in the league, given the finishers on the team.

Furthermore, his play in the clutch is literally the stuff of legends. Short of defending Kobe with five players late in ball games, there is just no way for opponents to feel safe when the ball is in his hands with the clock ticking down. Although there is no way to verify this, I feel confident in stating that no player in NBA history has attempted and converted more insanely difficult shots than the Mamba. Kobe Bryant may not always take high percentage shots, but he has all the tools required in his basketball shed to score on opponents whether single covered or double-teamed.

As far as aesthetics go, no one in the NBA has a better-looking game than Kobe. In a sense, he is a little bit like Randy Moss: everything he does just seems completely natural, fluid and dare I say, beautiful. The things Kobe does on a basketball court tend to get noticed, even if they are basic by his standards. A behind the back dribble followed by a fade away jumper from the elbow is a thing of beauty when Bryant is involved; and it looks extremely difficult for anyone else to replicate.

All of these facets of Kobe Bryant’s game make him one of the best players in the league, but how could he possibly only obtain a ranking of seventh best in the association? One word: defense.

The Lakers superstar is a great team defender; he gets into passing lanes and roams around to disrupt opposing offenses and does a good job of helping out teammates when they get beat.

However, he is no longer the game changer he once was defensively when matched up one-on-one with great perimeter players. Bryant is still a good on that end of the court and occasionally flashes signs of greatness on this front. Indeed, Kobe can guard great wing players for perhaps a quarter or a few possessions down the stretch of games but can no longer consistently shut down his man for an entire contest.

When discussing the absolute best player in the league, one has to expect that he is dominant on both ends of the court and the Lakers superstar’s defense has slipped enough that the title of “best player in the game” is tough to bestow upon him, although one would have to think that Bryant at the very least would outclass Durant at this point.

Nonetheless, Kobe Bryant will continue to be the standard of excellence by which we measure current and future great perimeter players, and that trumps any rankings system today.

J.M. Poulard


to Evaluating Kobe’s #NBARank

  1. I believe 7th is more or less correct. I would have trouble putting Rose ahead of him, not to mention Griffin and Williams.
    But Durant is closing in on LBJ and Wade, who have outplayed Kobe the past few years, Dwight is a monster in the beggining of his prime, Paul is the best PG in the game and Dirk played out of his mind to win the title.
    So today, in fairness, Kobe probably is the 7th best player in the league. Other than Dirk, I would take any of the other guys before Kobe.

    Kobe has more mileage than that old dude with the grey beard that plays pickup at your hometown on the weekend. Honestly, its a blessing he is still able to deliver.

    But there is one thing that should change about Kobe is the usage rate. OMFG how can he have the highest usage rate in the league? Overconfidence is a bitch sometimes. Kobe could florish doing different things throughout the game… He has a killer mid-range J, so run screens so he can shoot from the elbow. Less effort, same results. More low-post isos. More spot-ups from the corner. Shutdown wing player for a small amount of time. Rest those banged-up, creeky old knees.
    And lets go for ring #7, in homage to his ranking.


  2. The only reason ESPN ranked Kobe lower than he should be was merely to get ratings and controversy. Dirk had 1 great playoff series after choking year after year. Chris Paul? Are you kidding me? He’s a great player but he isn’t even the best player in at his position. Analysts were drooling last year over Rose and to a lesser extent Westbrook.

    If LBJ and D Wade (not to mention #24 Bosh) were so great they would have won the Finals.

    Tim Duncan at #19 is a joke. Anyone that watched a Spurs game last season knows that. He is no where near the player he was in the past.


  3. I think the rating was more or less fair. Kobe’s game is basically jumpshots and post ups now. His explosive first step is gone. Plus, he cannot stay in front of defenders the way he used to. Still to see a 33 year old with 16 seasons under his belt rank in the top ten is pretty impressive.

    Also, we have to remember that expectations do factor in. Kobe’s prolific body of work forces people to hold him to an extremely high standard.


  4. I sincerely hope that Kobe’s knee procedure helped him, just so he can go and destroy the league as soon as this lockout junk is over with. There is no way he should have finished outside of Top 5. No way.


  5. True, he’s getting older, isn’t who he once was and all that but surely he has to be in the top 5? As a lifelong Kobe fan I don’t like the ranking and I also view it as a way of starting debate.


  6. I could understand rating kobe lower than those not yet listed as he now needs to work a little bit harder for his points but for defense? A total of 3 of those players, (Dwight, Wade and Paul) are better 1 on 1 defenders at this point. Lebron gets torched in any isolation situation same with Durant and Dirk. That seems like a pretty weak justification to me.


  7. Kobe should be 4th. Dirk had one hot month of playoff basketball. People are lost in the moment. Chris Paul had a down season last year on a bad knee. He also had one week of the best PG play in a playoff series of all time against a very good lakers defense. But it was also against Derek Fisher. Durant can be shutdown by Ron Artest. Kobe can only be shutdown by LeBron ;). Durant is still a hair behind Kobe. His playmaking ability isn’t there yet.


  8. I’d still put Kobe in the top 5 and if the playoffs were starting tomorrow and rosters were wiped clean? I’d have a tough time not taking him #1. There’s still nobody that has that drive, that will to win and just an insane knowledge of the game.


  9. To me,Kobe is still right there in the top five despite his 33 something minute average last year and bad fingers knees ankle,etc.He still creates ample opportunities in the offense for others by just being on the court, can shut down best opposing guard in stretches and still has best all around game.I hope lockout ends soon.


  10. the other Stephen October 17, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    i’m interested in what the rookies and bench players have been up to this summer. have darius morris and andrew goudelock been doing their homework?


  11. I believe this is a fair ranking of one of the best players the game has ever seen. The order was based on the present and not past accompilishments, therefore #24’s age and mileage has to be taken into consideration.


  12. What is the criteria on ranking these players? I think these panelist forgot about professionalism and heart. If you take these two elements as part of the criterium in ranking players, Kobe is flat out the best player. Maybe that is the problem with NBA. Stern and company rely too much on talent and artificial hype to market this league and the sport. Neglecting professionalism and the essence of sportsmanship has created a generation of opportunistic and greedy athletes, agents, and owners alike. Kobe is robbed through out his career, pure and simple. Not recognizing or acknowledging the greatness in Kobe’s professionalism is indicative of the problems associated with this league and the media which covers it’s stories.


  13. I believe #nbarank is flawed, moreso than Hollinger’s PER. But I love the fact that there’s a twitter firestorm happening once it was announced LOL.


  14. if this is about defense, how is dirk above kobe?


  15. I can’t stand James (like millions of others around the world), but since the list is about basketball skill and not personality traits, I’m okay with him being #1. Same goes with Wade being above Kobe at this exact moment, and that’s just because Kobe has a thousands of minutes played and age on him over Wade. It’s to be expected. And even Howard, who is the in the monsterous prime of his career, should be fine to be ranked ahead of Kobe. Dwight changes the game and the league.

    But Chris Paul? Dirk? Paul hasn’t accomplished anything outside of racking up assists. He can be stopped, and he isn’t even the best PG in the league anymore (hello, Rose). And Dirk had one single (albeit amazing) playoff run. He hadn’t done anything prior to that and he won’t again. What killed the Lakers was the Dallas teamwork, not Dirk. And like others have said before, if this list was truly affected by defensive prowess, how are CP3 and Dirk up there? Even at his age, Kobe is still far and away a superior defender than both of those.

    Kobe deserves to be at #4, no more, no less. He’s behind the top 3 by default (age, health, etc.), but ahead of the rest by skill, IQ, talent, and accomplishments.

    The list is a joke.


  16. I’m a long time Laker fan, since ’65. I have no problem with Kobe being considered the 7th best player in the league at this stage of his career. All agreed Kobe isn’t the defensive player he once was due to age & injuries, and that was a major part of Kobe’s greatness. However, if truth be told, Kobe has obviously slipped offensively also. All six of the players listed ahead of him: Dwight, LeBron, Wade, Durant, Paul, & Dirk had better 1) win shares, 2) Ts%, & 3) eFG% than Kobe last season.

    Thing is Kobe can actually IMPROVE his rating & become a better player this season (whenever it starts) if he passes the ball inside to his two younger bigs more often. Kobe would see less double teams & become a much more efficient scorer, while at the same time getting more touches & points from his bigs, leading to more wins for the Lakers, & hopefully to title # 17 for the Laker organization.

    Kobe, forget passing MJ on the all time scoring list, concentrate on passing Boston on the all-time NBA Championship list.