There’s being a great shooter, and there’s being a great player.
Kobe Bryant is unquestionably the former. He is fourth on the NBA’s career scoring list, and third in field goal attempts. He led the Los Angeles Lakers in scoring when they won the NBA title in 2009 and 2010.
But Bryant prioritized himself above his team offensively, and those gaudy stats are partly a reflection of that. It’s why, if you look through my list of the NBA’s 75 all-time greatest players, you won’t find him in the top five or even the top 10.
I have him 14th, behind former teammate Shaquille O’Neal and ahead of Hakeem Olajuwon.
Let me say right off that stats, titles and individual awards were not the only measure I used when doing my list. I also considered someone’s impact on the game, and the role they played in making the NBA what it is today.
That’s why George Mikan, who in addition to his seven titles in three different leagues brought big men into the game and was responsible for the creation of the shot clock and prohibition against goaltending, is fifth. Steph Curry, whose proficiency from 3-point range sparked an offensive transformation throughout the game, is ninth.
Bryant scored a lot. He also took a lot of shots. A lot, particularly in the last years of his career.
His 26,200 field goal attempts are just 10 fewer than those of Karl Malone, yet Malone, No. 2 on the scoring list, finished with almost 3,300 more points. Of the top 10 players in career scoring, Bryant is tied with Carmelo Anthony for the worst shooting percentage, at 44.7%.
The next-worst, Dirk Nowitzki, is more than two points better, while career leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a shooting percentage of 55.9%, albeit as a center.
As for Bryant’s other offensive contributions, well, let’s just say he preferred to get his shots. He’s 31st in career assists and fifth in turnovers.
NBA’S TOP 75 GREATEST PLAYERS
►Ranking Nos. 75-51: From Drexler to Garnett
►Ranking Nos. 50-26: From English to Worthy
Bryant does have five NBA titles, but so do Larry Siegfried and Don Nelson. It’s as much a reflection of the talent that surrounded him as his own.
Besides, if you move Bryant up, who do you move down? Scottie Pippen, who won six titles and was one of the greatest defenders the game has ever seen? Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged 30 points and 20 rebounds in seven seasons, and prompted rules changes for free throws and inbounding the ball, as well as forcing the lane to be widened?
Oscar Robertson, the first player to average a triple-double for a season and the first of the big point guards? Larry Bird, whose rivalry with Magic Johnson ensured the NBA made it to its 50th anniversary?
Bryant deserves his due. In addition to his five titles and his place on the scoring list, he was one of the NBA’s top defenders throughout his career. But his greatness should not be overstated, and certainly not at the expense of the other players ahead of him.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA 75th anniversary: Kobe Bryant does not make list of top 10 players
Source: Yahoo Sports