Kobe Bryant
(David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

Kobe Bryant Is Not Top 10 All Time

I’m not saying this just for the sake of clicks. You don’t have to agree with me, and I expect that a large percentage of the people reading this won’t. That’s fine, I just want you to hear me out. The fact is, part of thinking about the NBA in an all-time sense is ranking players. It’s become an unavoidable part of our basketball discourse. When we do that, there are all-time great players that fall outside of certain rankings. For me, that’s Kobe Bryant.

Make no mistake, this is not a post saying that Kobe Bryant was bad at basketball or anything ridiculous like that. He is an all-time great who tragically left us earlier than expected. But the Top 10 Basketball Players of All Time is an extremely exclusive list. Let me take you through my reasoning for why Bryant misses the cut.

Players Undisputedly Higher All-Time Than Kobe Bryant (5)

I think there are five players who no one should disagree are higher all-time than Kobe Bryant. Those players, in no particular order, are LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bill Russell.

LeBron and Jordan are No. 1 and 2 in pretty much any discussion for Greatest of All Time. No argument there. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won six NBA titles, six MVP awards, is the all-time NBA scoring champion, and made the All-Star game 19 times. There shouldn’t be an argument here either. Wilt Chamberlain is probably the most impressive player as far as statistics are concerned in NBA history. In 14 seasons, he led the league in scoring seven times and rebounding 11 times. He won four MVP awards, averaged 50 points per game in one season, and scored 100 points in one game. Should not be a debate. Finally, Bill Russell won 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons to go with five MVP awards and 11 All-NBA teams. He is the most accomplished winner in NBA history.

So there you go. Five players undisputedly higher than Kobe Bryant on the all-time list. Let’s move on.

Players With Very Strong Arguments to Be Above Kobe Bryant (3)

There are three more players who I believe have an overwhelming case to be above Kobe, but these might not be unanimous like the five above should be. Those players are Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Tim Duncan.

Johnson is a five-time champion and three-time MVP who is widely considered the greatest point guard of all time. Like Magic, Tim Duncan is also considered the greatest at his position. He was a five-time champ and two-time MVP in his own right. Larry Bird is one of the most versatile players to ever live, winning three championships and three MVP awards en route to a career that many consider the greatest small forward career outside of LeBron James. Bird averaged 24/10/6 for his entire career.

So like I said, I’m fairly confident that the arguments for these players are so overwhelming that they have to be put over Kobe all-time. These are also the types of players that sneak into the occasional top-five ranking.

Players That Round Out the Top 10 (2)

I have three more players that could be reasonably argued to be top 10 players of all time, and I only need two. My three players remaining are Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Oscar Robertson. I’m cutting out The Big O because of his lack of titles and individual awards, but his career averages of 25/7/9 are no joke. That leaves me with O’Neal and Olajuwon.

I think Hakeem has enough of a case solely based on the fact that he was drafted ahead of Michael Jordan, who many consider the GOAT, and no one ever says the Rockets made the wrong call for doing that. He also has two titles, two MVP awards, and two Defensive Player of the Year awards. Shaq was the most dominant player of his era, and that’s not disputed. He was an absolute physical force, the likes of which have not been seen since.

Kobe Bryant (1)

Kobe could reasonably be argued as a top 10 player, he’s just not on my list. His list of accolades can go toe-to-toe with most players. If you have him on your list, good for you. I also dock Kobe for his inefficient style of play that left him below all the above players in career box plus/minus. ESPN’s list had Bryant at No. 9 all-time, so I don’t think having him at No. 11 is any more ludicrous.

Honorable Mention (2)

Oscar Robertson gets Honorable Mention by default. And honestly, I think Stephen Curry is building a strong case as the greatest shooter of all time. He has three titles and two MVP awards, so he’s getting relatively close in my opinion.

That’s that. If you completely disagree with me, cool – I expect it. I think Kobe Bryant can be put anywhere No. 9 to No. 13 all-time and I wouldn’t outright disagree with you.


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