Kobe Bryant modeled his game on Michael Jordan’s, right down to the tongue hanging out when he drove the lane. Both wore their competitiveness on their sleeve, and both were driven like few others. Kobe chased MJ in rings, in MVPs, in points scored and just about every conceivable way.
Every great player now gets measured against Jordan, including LeBron James. Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who played with — and got punched by — Jordan, said there is no comparison, Kobe is more like Jordan.
The highlights of Kerr’s comments:
“Kobe is the closest thing to Michael (Jordan). Everybody’s been compared to Michael. LeBron’s been compared to Michael — I don’t think LeBron is Michael at all. I think he’s a very different player, a very different mentality and mindset. Kobe has the same mentality and mindset that MJ had. The assassin, the ‘I’m gonna rip your throat out with my scoring,’ low-post dominant fadeaway jumper, footwork.
“I thought Kobe’s footwork was one of the best parts of his game — probably the most underrated because everybody focused on his shooting and his athleticism, but his footwork got him open. That’s where he was so similar to Michael. He could just get any shot he wanted.”
Kobe was one of the greats at getting to his spots on the floor — the elbow or elbow extended, for example — and once there nobody was going to stop him. His footwork was part of that, but also was another area where Kobe’s career arc followed Jordan’s: Kobe relied on his athleticism more in his youth, but it was his footwork and guile that made him a force later in his career when he won his last couple of titles alongside Pau Gasol.
Kerr is also spot on that LeBron is a different kind of player — he’s always been more Magic Johnson to me than Jordan. LeBron is competitive and puts in the work — you don’t have an MVP-like run in your 15th season like he is without it — but he doesn’t broadcast it the same way. It bothers some that LeBron wasn’t more of a very public bloodthirsty assassin like Kobe and Jordan, but those people miss the mark with LeBron. What worked for Kobe is not one size fits all.
There is only one Kobe Bryant. Others will come along and try to emulate him, that’s the way the game works, but there will never be another quite like him.