Why Michael Jordan thought Kobe Bryant was the only player who could beat him 1-on-1

Michael Jordan

The late Kobe Bryant was the only human who could have defeated Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one in their primes. These are Jordan’s words, not ours.


Bryant, who entered the NBA with the Lakers in the late 1990s as Jordan’s Bulls were finishing their dynastic run of six championships in eight years, set a high bar for himself when he so clearly modeled his game after that of the best player basketball had seen. That bar proved impossible to clear in the NBA given Jordan’s historic accomplishments, but Bryant’s efforts earned him what might be the most notable nod in the history of the sport.

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Because Jordan’s legacy is equal parts basketball legend and unparalleled ego/competition-aholic, his allowing that an in-his-prime Bryant might get the best of an in-his-prime Jordan was a top-notch compliment — even if Jordan’s reasoning was rooted in narcissism.

Jordan in 2013 was asked who among the game’s all-time greats he would choose to play in a game of one-on-one, notably with both players in their primes. He reeled off some intriguing choices: Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

« I don’t think I would lose,” Jordan said, before smiling and adding, “Other than to Kobe Bryant, because he steals all of my moves. »

Jordan was simply stating a fact, one Bryant admitted soon after he caught wind of his basketball predecessor’s quote.

“Domino effect, » Bryant tweeted. « I stole some of his (moves). This generation stole some of mine. »

Thanks to YouTube, we don’t have to take Jordan and Bryant for their word when it comes to the former’s accusation and the latter’s admission of move-stealing. See for yourself below.

Bryant quite literally stole Jordan’s moves.

That Bryant was able to duplicate so much of Jordan’s game was among the reasons their relationship became so unique. At first, Bryant pissed off Jordan the way a little brother would. But they became close friends in part because Jordan admired Bryant’s relatable passion as much as his relatable skills.

« Maybe it surprised people that Kobe and I were very close friends. But we were very close friends, » Jordan said at Bryant’s memorial service in February. « Kobe was my dear friend. He was like a little brother. Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe.

« You know, all of us have brothers and sisters, little brothers, little sisters, who for whatever reason always tend to get in your stuff, your closet, your shoes, everything. It was a nuisance, if I can say that word, but that nuisance turned into love over a period of time. »

Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan career stat comparison

To the naked eye, Bryant might as well have been Jordan’s twin in terms of playing style. On the stat sheet, though, Jordan got the best of his « little brother. »

While Jordan edged Bryant in most career scoring figures, one could argue pure shooting is the one area of the game in which Bryant had an edge. (Part of this is because Bryant could be considered the best impossible shot maker in NBA history, even though many of those impossible shots were completely unnecessary.)

As for all other aspects of the game? Well, there’s a reason MJ is considered the GOAT.

Jordan Bryant
15 Seasons 20
1,072 Games 1,346
179 Playoff games 220
6 Championships 5
14 All-Star selections 18
5 League MVPs 1
6 Finals MVPs 2
69 Single-game career high 81
30.1 Points per game 25.0
33.4 Playoff points per game 25.6
28.3 Points per 36 minutes 24.9
28.8 Playoff points per 36 minutes 23.5
40.4 Points per 100 possessions 35.8
43.3 Playoff points per 100 possessions 34.7
.569 True shooting % .550
.568 Playoff true shooting % .541
.327 3-point shooting % .329
.332 Playoff 3-point shooting % .331
27.9 Player efficiency rating 22.9
28.6 Playoff player efficiency rating 22.4
.835 Free throw % .837
.828 Playoff free throw % .816
5.3 Assists per game 4.7
5.7 Playoff assists per game 4.7
24.9 Assist % 24.2
28.2 Playoff assist % 23.3
64.1 Defensive win shares 50.7
12.4 Playoff defensive win shares 7.3
2.0 Defensive box plus/minus -0.1
2.3 Playoff defensive box plus/minus 0.4
6.2 Rebounds per game 5.2
6.4 Playoff rebounds per game 5.1
9.4 Rebound % 8.1
9.3 Playoff rebound % 7.4
0.8 Blocks per game 0.5
0.9 Playoff blocks per game 0.7
1.4 Block % 1.0
1.6 Playoff block % 1.3
2.3 Steals per game 1.4
2.1 Playoff steals per game 1.4
3.1 Steal % 2.1
2.7 Playoff steal % 1.9

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