Responding to Kobe’s Finals Critics

» June 17, 2009 12:42 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

Reed at Forum Blue and Gold compares Bryant’s 2009 Finals performance to Michael Jordan’s last three title runs, LeBron’s numbers against the Magic, and fires back at ESPN’s Bill Simmons for this “agenda-driven” article. It’s an interesting read. A favorite excerpt:

Kobe was as efficient as Jordan during his last three title runs. Jordan’s free throw and 3 point percentages were lower every year. Much is made of Kobe’s struggles in games 3 and 4 of the finals, but Jordan was equally capable of having an off night. In the 98 finals Jordan shot over 50% once and put up shooting nights of 9-26, 14-33, 15-35, and 13-29. In the 97 finals, Chicago lost games 3 and 4 as Jordan shot 9-22 and 11-27. In 96 against Seattle, two of the final three games witnessed 6-19 and 5-19 performances. My point is that it is disingenuous to knock Kobe for having an off game now and then. Yes Kobe sometimes forces things when he doesn’t have it, but it is revisionist history to say that Jordan didn’t sometimes do the same. Much like Kobe’s Lakers, Jordan’s Bulls were complete teams that were fully capable of winning when he showed his mortal side. And, like Kobe, Jordan was capable of controlling a game even with a struggling jumper.

When evaluating and comparing efficiency, we also need to place these performances in their proper context. Kobe’s last two finals runs have been against the teams that finished first in defensive efficiency (Boston and Orlando). Is it fair to hold it against him that he shot a few percentage points lower than usual? Continuing the above comparison, Jordan’s 98 finals were against the league’s 16th ranked defense (Utah), and the 97 finals against the 9th ranked defense (Utah). If Kobe played against Milwaukee or Dallas in the finals (two middle of the road defensive teams), what would his numbers have looked like?


14 Responses to “Responding to Kobe’s Finals Critics”

  1. Sensei1 Says:

    He wrote this article the way MJ played the game. Thanks for directing your readers there Brandon. Oh, and by the way, where is your piece on Kobe for the year?

  2. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Glad you enjoyed the link. Forum Blue and Gold is a daily must read.

    I’ll probably put some together on Kobe and the Lakers next week. I haven’t really had a chance to collect my thoughts. It hasn’t really sunk in yet.

    Cheers.

  3. Tsunami Says:

    Neil wrote that post because of all the gushing coming out of Jackson and Walton and Breen and Van Gundy.

    Kobe played fine – how I expected him to play. How he normally plays – jacks up a ton of mid-range jumpers, gambles on defense but frustrates people in 1 on 1 situations. Hits his free throws (cept for that 5-10 showing) and scores the most points because he takes the most shots and makes the most shots.

    I think he is blessed and cursed by the Jordan comparisons. he’s blessed in that Laker fans, media types, etc give him a free pass on all the hero shots he takes. He’ll take 20 contested mid-range jumpers and make 8 of them. And no one will remember the 12 he missed, maybe because they were such tough shots. And the 8 he makes, it’s like “wow he’s unstoppable – no defense can stop that”.

    He’s cursed in that people that don’t buy into his overinflated reputation (statisticians, jordan fans, Lebron fans) hold the comparisons against him – because he isn’t on that level – and never has been for a season.

    Instead of appreciating the fact that he was the best player on the best team in the NBA – many of us are focusing on how erroneous the comments of the abc crew were.

  4. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Tsunami:

    I have a hard time taking anything you say about Bryant seriously.

    Overinflated reputation? Are you serious? We’re talking about one of the ten greatest players of all-time. He’s not just the “best player on the best team in the NBA.”

    Lol. Give me a break.

  5. Sensei1 Says:

    I guess the same couldn’t be said for LBJ or Mj right? Any objective fan, sports writter, or player could take that argument and reverse it against you so what was the point?

    All great men/women will be faced with the blessing and the curse. Love them or hate them they continue to follow their own agenda and don’t allow side bars from the forum of public opinion sway them.

    The argument that incestantly rages on about who is better will never be won by any side. I like oranges, you like apples will either change their opinion no matter the argument. MJ played in a different era with different tools around him and with different opposition. The same can and will be said about KB24 and LBJ. It seems now that Kobe has shattered the myth that he couldnt win bithout Shaq all of his detractors are furiously searching for the next great argument. Stats, speculation of genuine like/love of his fellow players, the strength/weakness of the Lakers division and Eastern competition, and on and on. At the end of the day what counts? Speculation or the end result of the score when the clock runs out? I’ll take the Lakers and Kobe winning by 1 every time.

    Will LBJ eventually get a ring? I believe so. Until he does though, there is really little left to say.

  6. Tsunami Says:

    I think he is one of the 10 greatest players of all time.

    Look, I won’t reign on your parade any more.

    I’m sure you are very excited that your Lakers won.

    I just don’t fall into the camp that says the kinds of things about Kobe that Jackson, Breen, Van Gundy, and Walton say.

    When he makes a shot or wins a series, i don’t go out of my way to make sure everyone knows that he’s the best player ever to make a shot or win a series.

    You don’t take it seriously because you are a huge Bryant fan.

    But if everyone in the world gushed about how LeBron James was the greatest to ever play the SF position, and the closest thing anyone will ever see since MJ – and he as shooting 40% and jacking up a lot of shots – you would be at the forefront of the charge against that claim – just like you did when he shot a poor percentage against Boston.

    So was that you on Paine’s website?

  7. Sensei1 Says:

    Kobe is considered one of the 10 best players of all time. OK. Great. That’s no where near as important to any real Lakers fan as what the Lakers and Kobe just did a few days ago. Win another Championship. Because again, at the end of the day, I don’t care how great MJ was, had he not won as many championships as he did, then most of the MJ zealots wouldn’t be making a peep.

    You can’t reign on the Lakers parade. The only people who could have missed enough shots during regulation and overtime to be forced to use their own umbrellas. Of course I’m excited the Lakers won. I’m sure you’re depressed that whatever team you were rooting for didn’t win.

    Whatever camp you fall into is inconsequental with all things considered. Teams don’t win or lose because of anyones opinion other than theirs. If the Lakers and or Kobe Bryant depended on the sayings or non sayings of the spectators, I’m certain they wouldn’t be as accomplished as they are. Typically I don’t pay attention to anything the subjective reporters, fans, and or writters say because they don’t write out of pure objectivety. They write and report in veins that steer people to their own opinion. Sadly, people follow like sheep. Kind of like when people hate an athlete that they’ve never met, spoke to, or worked with, simply because that athlete is in direct opposistion of a player they like.

    I don’t take what you and most other Kobe bashers say seriously because I understand the nature of people. People have a tendacy to skew all manner of data in the pursuit of being right. When all along being right is a myth in and of itself. Being right is an opinion. Period. I don’t take this stuff seriously because it’s pointless at the end of the day. If you want to sit up and look at sets of data and then still argue the point….what am I to do? Argue with you? I don’t think so.

    LeBron is a great player there is no arguing that but is he the greatest ever? Absolutely not. Why? He’s only been playing for what 5-6 years? Does LeBron have the greatest upside in the history of the SF position? I believe he does. That doesn’t make him the greatest of all time. The argument can’t be won and shouldn’t be had because the data is always going to be off. Unless these players are put into the same situations, made to play with and against the same foes, and forced to take the same shots, the data cannot be trusted. It’s like baking a cake, I can take two of the best Bakers in America and ask them to bake the same exact cake, following the same set of rules. If one lives in the mountains and one lives in the Bayou the cakes will turn out differently. How then can I tell who is the better Baker?

    If Kobe takes a bad shot I admit it. If LeBron does I do the same. I have no idea what Paine”s wesite is. Sorry.

  8. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Lol. No, that wasn’t me on Neil Paine’s blog. I don’t make anonymous comments. But I took a look at your comments after you brought them to my attention and I thought they were hilarious.

    I don’t take you seriously because you always attempt to undermine Bryant’s accomplishments. And you’ve admitted to doing so in the past.

    Comparing Manu Ginobili to Kobe Bryant is asinine. Claiming that Ginobili is a better defender than Bryant is flat out wrong. And declaring that Pau Gasol, not Bryant, was the most important player on the Lakers is ridiculous.

    Yes, the Lakers are my favorite team and Bryant is my favorite player. But I’m not a homer. I covered the NBA — with media credentials — all season long. And I always give credit where credit is due.

    Bryant played very well in the Finals. He had a couple of poor shooting games, but he did a phenomenal job of orchestrating the triangle offense. The only criticism you — or anyone else — can possibly levy against Bryant’s Finals performance is that he shot 43% from the field.

    But I’d be willing to wager that Bryant and James’ true shooting percentage versus the Magic, which takes into account 2-point field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws — is pretty comparable.

    Bryant shot better from the three-point line, free-throw line, and averaged more steals, blocks, and less turnovers.

    James averaged more points, rebounds, and assists (which is mitigated by more turnovers).

    I haven’t seen anyone claim that Bryant is “the greatest to ever play the SG position.”

  9. Tsunami Says:

    Well I can’t force you to take me seriously.

    I guess I have to promote Kobe to be taken seriously anymore.

    Let me try again…
    In my humble, Kobe loving opinion, it is not asinine to compare Kobe and Manu on the basis of:

    1.) Championships
    2.) Per minute Production
    3.) Role in teams success
    4.) Olympic Play
    5.) Position
    6.) Shooting Percentages

    I’ve never once said Manu is BETTER than Kobe. And I have said Kobe is a top 10 player before.

    How is it flat out WRONG to say that Manu is better defensively? Based on reputation, sure it’s flat out wrong. But look at any defensive metric and Manu will be higher (oh wait, I forgot stats are never correct if they don’t have kobe #1) And the Spurs have been a juggernaut defensive team for a decade. It’s funny that defense is mostly a subjective argument but you are so sure that Kobe is the superior defensive player.

    I have never admitted to undermining Kobe’s accomplishments, but I obviously have spent the better part of my blogging career trying to point out where his reputation far exceeds his performance.

    Seriously comparing him to Jordan is asinine. Yet, if feels like if you DON’T do that, you are a “hater” and can’t be taken seriously. It’s smart though, demonizing people is the quickest way to get them to shut up. As a blogger, I sure as heck don’t want to “lose my credibility” and be reduced to a “hater” – so I guess I better start worshiping at the Kobe alter too. Before no one reads my work.

    Look Brandon, I didn’t decide to start beating the drum again out of jealousy or anything. I read Neil’s blog and thought “holy cow, amidst the ocean of Kobe-loving blogs and posts, there is one guy (who’s not even a Cavs fan) that was upset with all the gushing by the ABC crew” And then I saw all the Kobe fans show up at his site to call him a hater. That pisses me off – it’s just like our political climate today – if you have a different opinion than you know who, you are demonized by everyone. It completely destroys any relevant discussion, and leads to revisionist history.

    You don’t notice this because you are a Laker fan. So every time someone goes out of there way to show how mystically great Kobe is despite evidence to the contrary, it doesn’t bother you. Same goes for all laker fans. And when you guys feel someone is giving LeBron or Wade or CP3 too much love you jump in to try to put some perspective on things.

    I’m going to assume by your comments that you just don’t want to discuss basketball anymore. if you don’t respect my opinion, regardless of your own, then we have nothing further to discuss.

    Honestly I’m getting tired of fighting the tide of public perception. It’s too nauseating and 9 out of 10 people only have nasty things to say. This goes for politics as much as sports. I really entered the sports realm 2 years ago because I got tired of these kinds of debates with politics. I figured sports wouldn’t the same way – but I think everyone else had the same idea – and now sports debates get just as nasty as political ones.

    Anyway, good luck with your site – it’s a nice format.

    Cheers.

  10. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    I love Manu Ginobili’s game, but he doesn’t compare to Kobe Bryant. It’s asinine to compare Ginobili to Bryant by any criteria, but for the sake of argument, I’ll address a few of your points.

    Championships: Manu has three. Kobe has four.

    Bryant has advanced to the Finals twice as the focal point of his team’s offense. Ginobili has NEVER been the go-to guy in San Antonio. Tony Parker, not Ginobili, was Finals MVP in 2007.

    It’s true that three of Ginobili and Bryant’s titles were accumulated as supporting players. But Ginobili was closer to Tony Parker (in term’s of value) than Tim Duncan, while Bryant was clearly 1B to Shaq’s 1A.

    Bryant averaged more than 20 points per game during all four of his championship seasons. He put up 28.5 points per game in 2001-02 (LA’s repeat season). Ginobili has NEVER averaged more than 20 points per game.

    Per minute production: You’re basically assuming that Ginobili could equal Bryant’s production if he played the same amount of minutes. That’s a huge assumption, especially when you consider that Ginobili has spent a good portion of his career coming off the bench, which allows him to rack up numbers against reserves.

    Ginobili is also very injury prone. His helter-skelter style of play doesn’t lend itself to a surplus of minutes.

    Role in teams success: Are you kidding me? I repeat, Ginobili has never been the focal point of San Antonio’s offense.

    You might have had an argument six years ago. You know, before Bryant starting putting up a ton of points alongside Shaq, became a perennial All-NBA defender, led the league in scoring two seasons in a row, won MVP, advanced to the Finals, and captured his first Finals MVP award. No, on second thought, you never had an argument.

    FORGET per minute numbers. They don’t apply.

    Olympic Play: This is inconsequential. Leading Argentina to the gold medal in 2004 was pretty impressive, but the international game doesn’t compare to the NBA.

    Position: You got me there. They do play the same position.

    Shooting Percentages: I’ll admit, Ginobili’s shooting percentages are comparable to Bryant’s. But again, Ginobili has never been the go-to guy in San Antonio. Opposing teams gameplan to stop Duncan, not Ginobili. Ginobili doesn’t face double teams on a nightly basis. He plays limited minutes, (for the reasons detailed above) and does most of his damage against opposing teams’ reserves.

    What defensive metrics are your referring to? Opposing PER? Please. The Spurs have been a defensive juggernaut because of Popovich’s system, and because Tim Duncan is their defensive anchor. Ginobili has never been named to an All-Defensive team, while Bryant’s been honored nine times. But I guess that’s all hype right? Even though the defensive teams are decided by the coaches, not the media.

    You said, “I have never admitted to undermining Kobe’s accomplishments, but I obviously have spent the better part of my blogging career trying to point out where his reputation far exceeds his performance.”

    Have you forgotten that I read your blog on a regular basis?

    You fired insults at Bryant all season long. You admitted you were biased against him in the comments of this post:

    “After watching him for the last 8 years, I have a bias against him and his style of play. I still think he’s a great basketball player and a hall of famer, but if it seems that I’m not his biggest fan, that’s probably by design.”

    This blog was pretty revealing as well.

    And that’s fine. If you want to be a fan, be a fan. But don’t act like you analyze Bryant’s game objectively.

  11. Tsunami Says:

    lol well you should COMMENT more often.

    I write these long ass blogs so effing dusty can come on with his 17 fsn accounts and troll the hell out of them.

    Ok, since you decided to comment on my points, I have to defend a few of them.

    1.) For being such a self-proclaimed Ginobili fan, you sure don’t seem to remember how he played in the 2004-2005 Playoffs.

    I know you hate PER – I have yet to meet a Laker fan that doesn’t – but I like it for comparison purposes.

    I have stated that it is more valid to compare Kobe and Manu than Kobe and Jordan.

    Well, here are their respective Career Playoff PERs:
    His Airness: 28.6 (179 games)
    Kobe Bean: 22.0 (175 games)
    Ginobili: 20.4 (107 games)

    Here’s another fun fact. In the 2005 Playoffs, Manu’s Win shares were 4.1, higher than any playoffs Kobe had ever had until this year.

    You said: “But again, Ginobili has never been the go-to guy in San Antonio. Opposing teams gameplan to stop Duncan, not Ginobili. Ginobili doesn’t face double teams on a nightly basis. He plays limited minutes, (for the reasons detailed above) and does most of his damage against opposing teams’ reserves.”

    Just because he comes off the bench at the 8 minute mark of the 1st quarter doesn’t mean he only plays against the reserves. Also, it’s not like he’s playing less than 15 minutes a game – he’s playing 33 minutes – I highly doubt he is going against “reserves” for 33 minutes – and what about 4th quarters? Are the reserves checking him with 5 minutes left?

    You can tout Bryant’s all-defensive selections all you want. Defensive stats are far from refined, so I’m not going to try to hang the hat of my argument on them. but i will say this: I have seen Kobe play A LOT. When I watch him play defense, I am not impressed. He gets right up into the grill of a ball-handler and “frustrates” said handler quite often. And quite often the ball-handler blows right by him…and then he puts up his hands in disgust at his team for not bailing him out. Maybe he was better a few years ago when I didn’t have league pass – but everything I see about him echos what I study – the Lakers give up less points when he is on the bench, and I have just seen him gamble way too much – even in big moments of big games. Also, the defensive selections are often an absolute JOKE. I remember when Arenas got some votes a few years back. Seriously, they are a joke – i don’t care that the coaches vote for them. It just proves to me that being a head coach in the NBA might be more about player management and less about scouting.

    My Bias against his style of play is that I think he forces things and doesn’t play within the team concept. guess what, nothing has changed. And his numbers reflect this. Gasol was absolutely dominant on offense this year and the Lakers hardly ever looked for him in the post. Kobe played well in these playoffs, don’t get me wrong, but I still didn’t get a sense that he is any different. He has always been a great player – but he has to be the hero all the time – he doesn’t defer, and honestly I was getting ANGRY with him watching the way he played in the Olympics last summer. (despite all the revisionist history about those olympics, i watched every game and remember vividly how everyone played)

    You talked about Manu not dealing with double teams. What DOUBLE TEAMS was Kobe dealing with when Shaq was in town? What DOUBLE TEAMS has Kobe been dealing with now that Gasol is wearing purple and gold? I really haven’t seen a lot of double teams. Have you?

    You’re right about Ginobili’s style leading to injury. Kobe has been durable – much more so that Ginobili.

    you can call what I’m doing “asinine” or whatever – but the fact remains – Kobe and Manu’s successes are closer in comparison than Kobe and Jordan’s. so, you can say i don’t analyze his game objectively and all that….but I don’t think you or Laker Nation or ABC or half the guys at ESPN, or Rosen, or a million others analyze his game objectively either. He’s “the ultimate closer” – NO, HE’S NOT. He’s “the ultimate assassin” – that’d be Michael.

    What I find hard to swallow, is that even though you try to remain unbiased – you love to call me out when I try to put things in perspective, but if any laker troll wrote a blog in all caps saying “KOBE IS DA BESTED EVA!” you’d be like “nice blog, man”

    If you want to preach to the choir, by all means – but isn’t it more fun to try to have an intelligent debate, even at the cost of disagreeing?

  12. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    I addressed most of your diatribe in my previous comment so I’ll just clear up a few misconceptions.

    1. I don’t “hate” PER. I’ve told you this countless times. I think it’s a good metric, but it shouldn’t be used to compare players. I feel the same way about win shares. Ranking players that way is a way to simplify for mass audiences. But it’s useless in terms of decision making. I have yet to find any proof that NBA teams use PER or Win Shares to compare players or make decisions. In fact, I’ve seen the exact opposite. And if they think its useless, why should I value it?

    2. You said, “What DOUBLE TEAMS has Kobe been dealing with now that Gasol is wearing purple and gold? I really haven’t seen a lot of double teams. Have you?” Which basically proves that you don’t pay attention, or don’t understand what you’re seeing. The Denver Nuggets doubled Bryant constantly. Orlando didn’t double as often as Denver, but almost always sent an extra defender when Bryant caught the ball at the pinch post. Pau Gasol is a very good player, but he benefits from the defensive attention payed to Bryant. Period.

    3. You said, “What I find hard to swallow, is that even though you try to remain unbiased – you love to call me out when I try to put things in perspective, but if any laker troll wrote a blog in all caps saying ‘KOBE IS DA BESTED EVA!’ you’d be like ‘nice blog, man.’” That’s way off base. I’ve criticized Bryant in the past and I’m sure I’ll criticize him in the future. I chastised his shot selection throughout the Olympics, but I was also quick to praise him for coming through when it mattered most — which you continue to ignore.

    I’m done with this conversation Tsunami. This isn’t a debate. It’s a never ending conversation that started almost three years ago. Let’s just say that you have your thoughts on the game, and I have mine.

    You live in a world of numbers, which is fine. I value numbers too, but I also want to see real world efficacy.

  13. Tsunami Says:

    Fair enough.

    To be honest, I didn’t watch as much of the Denver series as I did the Utah, Houston, and Orlando series. I just don’t remember him being doubled much.

    can we still be friends?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

  14. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Of course.

    We’ve had plenty of productive chats, but we’re never going to see eye-to-eye when it comes to Kobe Bryant’s place in the game.

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