Kobe Bryant will always be compared to Michael Jordan. He’s a high-scoring guard who got by on supreme athleticism and a famed work ethic before overhauling his game to take advantage of his immense basketball IQ and uncanny ability to add new offensive moves, so it makes sense considering that’s basically the Michael Jordan Career Path (page 94 in your NBA Careers and Management manual). Plus, young Kobe sounded a lot like older Michael and that didn’t exactly discourage the comparisons.
But, reading that Michael Jordan said that “if you are talking about guards … [Kobe] has to be in the top 10,” you might get the feeling that MJ doesn’t think there is much of a comparison. Top 10 is certainly impressive, but it’s not best player of all-time status, or even second best guard of all-time status. It’s just one of those non-c0mpliments — “nonpliments,” if you will — that Jordan loves to dish out.
However, as Kobe told Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears, it actually is a straight-up, normal-style compliment.
Because of math, obviously.
Bryant didn’t take Jordan’s comments as an insult.
“It’s an accurate statement,” Bryant said. “I’m definitely one of the top 10 guards. It could mean two, it could mean one, it could mean four or five. I’m definitely one of the top thousand. Look, I know how he feels about me.
“There have been a lot of great guards to play the game. For me to sit here and say, ‘He should have said top five,’ that’s disrespectful to the other guards that I’ve watched.”
Those, my friends, are some fine math zings. I’m not sure whether it’s the inclusion principle or the associative property, but it’s definitely true. I mean, “given that Kobe Bryant is a top 10 guard, prove that he could simultaneously be both top one and top one thousand” is a very easy proof for any of Mr. Chernick’s pre-algebra students. Show your work.
But really, Kobe gets it. He knows Jordan is never going to give anyone else all of the credit they deserve, especially if the player in question is currently the most viable threat to his G.O.A.T. crown. Jordan is too competitive for that, just like Kobe’s too competitive to not throw in that “it could mean one.” Both of these guys think they’re the best ever — and one of them is right — and neither of them could ever consider another possibility. It’s just not in their DNA.
See? The comparisons never stop.