Mike Wise says that it’s no longer “heresy” to ask who’s the greatest NBA player of all time, Kobe or Michael? He summarizes arguments for both sides of the debate and shows that Bryant is poised to surpass Jordan in the relevant statistical categories. But then he concludes with this:
“The unfortunate truth for Kobe is he can never be Michael because he isn’t thought of as likable as Jordan, also the greatest commercial pitchman ever for an athlete. Even if he tied or surpassed Jordan in championships and postseason magical moments, Bryant’s public missteps — the prideful ego war with Shaquille O’Neal early in his career, the sexual assault charge eventually dropped in Colorado and his desire to leave the Lakers only a few years ago — will always be held against him. . .
“Purely based on his professional persona, I think Kobe gets shortchanged on the image issue. See, Michael was as cutthroat and undiplomatic and nasty as a champion ever was. By the time he put on the suit and tie, though, he was a much better actor. With his megawatt smile and disarming wink, he could conceal the shadow side of him in ways Kobe never really cared if he concealed.”
For me, Jordon’s Hall of Fame speech leveled the playing field on the likeability factor. Jordon’s image was shattered by that speech. For that reason, if Kobe surpasses Jordan in the relevant stats, the honorary title of best NBA player ever can be Kobe’s. Read the rest here.