Jay C. Brandriet
The 2020 class for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was announced today.
Three obvious choices were Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and the late Kobe Bryant.
Though they overlapped with LeBron and Shaq, Duncan and Bryant were the most successful players during their time in the NBA.
Since his passing, Kobe has received a lot of love.
During his time, Kobe was largely not liked.
When Tim Duncan said goodbye to the game of basketball in 2016, the focus should have been on his brilliant career.
Instead, it was an opportunity for the media to take shots at Bryant.
Many claimed “Duncan was the best player of his generation.”
They said it so nonchalant, as if it was common knowledge.
I heard “at least Tim didn’t take 50 shots in his last game.”
There was, “Duncan retired with so much more class than Kobe.”
Everyone kept bringing up the amount of money Bryant was paid his last two seasons.
People not liking Kobe, doesn’t change that he was exactly, on the Tim Duncan level.
MY TAKE ON BRYANT
Kobe had as much skill, balance, and competitive heat as anyone who has played. His desire to be a student, ability to make difficult shots, and fundamentals were as good as it gets. He had Hakeem Olajuwon trained footwork and his handles have gone under the radar. “The Black Mamba” was a spectacular performer. He excelled in pressure. Scoring 50 in a game is a dream for most guys. Kobe once dropped 55 in a half. The Lakers star poured in 50 plus points ten times….in one season.
I remember a week and a half stretch where he hit the game winning bucket each night. Kobe not only bailed out Team USA in the clutch for a gold medal, the best players in the world were begging him to do it. He was close to “Michael Jordan good.” Let that sink in.
MY TAKE ON DUNCAN
It was memorable watching Tim Duncan as just a youngster, on the biggest stage. He came to the NBA unfazed and ready to be the best. He grew up battling Garnett, Webber, Rasheed Wallace, and Elton Brand. Duncan was the man among those men. His brains, array of post moves, and back to the basket game stood out. Duncan made the bank shot cool. Tim had terrific hands and was a precise passer.
He is likely one of the five best defensive players of my lifetime. The guy was still protecting the rim well as an older player. “The Big Fundamental” was a winner his entire career. His teams won 50 or more games in 17 straight seasons. Tim was the face of consistent, humble dominance.
SO WHO WAS BETTER?
It’s close! It’s a real debate. Their careers are equal. Taking each guy at their very best, I’d take Kobe. His greatness was more jaw-dropping.
Choose Duncan for his work on the floor. Don’t be clouded because Bryant was a teeth grinding villain.
This is how we would argue back and forth.
You’d say Timmy has one more MVP than Kobe. I’d tell you Bryant was named the Western Conference player of the month 16 times to Duncan’s 3.
You’ll say Duncan has one more Finals MVP. I’ll bring up Bryant averaging 29/7/7 on a record-setting 15-1 playoff run, where he was a “sidekick.”
You’ll say Kobe had Shaq. I’ll say the Spurs were awesome and Shaq had Kobe.
You’ll say Duncan was a better teammate. I’ll say Kobe had the confidence of an aggressive lion.
You’ll say Duncan had a better regular season winning percentage. I’ll add Bryant played in one more NBA Finals than Tim.
You’ll bring up the big mans tremendous defense. I’ll agree, but we all know Kobe grinded on that end of the floor.
You’ll say the Spur took less money to give back to his franchise. I’ll say the L.A. guy was more compelling and helped globalize the game.
If you think Duncan was the best player of his generation, it’s a legit take.
It’s just not a fact.
Tim Duncan was not alone as the best player of his generation.
Jay C. Brandriet