Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My take on Kobe Bryant

First, let me get a few things out of the way. I know this is not a sports blog, but sports are important to me and this is my blog. So, deal with it (Abbie, I'm talking to you). Second, I'm going to keep this strictly on the topic of basketball. I'm not letting my personal distaste for Kobe Bryant color this post. Third, Nate, these are facts and stats and are not intended to ruffle any proverbial feathers.

Kobe missed some free throws and the Lakers did not beat the Magic in game 3 of the somewhat anti-climactic NBA Finals. (I barely watched the game, and I'm one of the last 11 NBA fans left in the United States but that's not the point). Watching Sportscenter, I saw Kobe saying that he's used to making game winners and carrying his team to victory. Part of that is true. Kobe carries his team on a nightly basis. It's hard to argue he's not one of the best players of this generation, if not of all time. He's surely in the conversation of top 5 to 8 guards of all time. Some of his teams have been less talented than others, but the Lakers have been contenders more often than not with Kobe on the team. Largely because of Kobe. Like him or dislike him (he is a polarizing figure, one way or another [and if you disagree with that, you're drinking just not being objective]) Kobe is incredibly talented.

But let's talk about clutch. How do we define clutch? Let's define it as a game winning opportunity. Not just buzzer beating shots, as that would be statistically insignificant. Let's define clutch as:
  1. With 24 seconds or less, then it truly is a "last possession" situation potentially
  2. With a margin from tied to down 2, the team can take the lead with a made basket (including 3's)
  3. By excluding a down 3 situation, we don't have the "gimme two point buckets" that defenses will sometimes yield to the quick bucket/intentional foul strategy option you often see exercised.
Using stats from (an incredible NBA site, by the way, for the other 10 of you out there) analyzing the past 5 seasons, including playoffs (through February of this year), the league average for shots in this situation is .298. Not that great, but these are challenging shots. Some of these shots are from half court or beyond. Some are with less than one full second remaining.

Who has made the most of these game winning shots in the past 5 years? I'm glad you asked. It's Lebron James, with 17. We all remember the shot he hit against Orlando with hands in his face. Trey (allegedly) celebrated by imitating Lebron's chalk throwing. It was an incredible shot, without a doubt. What is the King's percentage on these shot? .340. Better than league average. Lebron also has 6 assists in these situations. So, one could argue he has created 23 game winners, when adding shots and assists.

Where is Kobe on this list? Well, he's fourth with 14. Certainly nothing to sneeze at. What is his percentage? Again, I'm glad you asked. It's below league average at .250. How many turnovers does he have in these situations? 5. He leads the entire NBA in that category. How many shots has he taken? 56. Wow, that's a lot. He leads the NBA in that category as well. Kobe also leads the league in misses, with 42 game winning shots missed. How many assists does Kobe have in game winning opportunities? One. In 62 chances (56 shots, one pass, 5 turnovers).

This is not to say Kobe is terrible. Clearly, I'm not saying that. I'm saying he's not infallible. But when you hear people say Kobe is the best finisher in the league, re-think that. He's not the most clutch. He doesn't pass to his teammates in those same clutch moments.

I thinks we can all agree that superstars get calls in the NBA. Michael Jordan did, Kobe does, Lebron does, Wade does. Just like in baseball where the tie goes to the runner, the borderline call goes to the star. This is nothing new. But I wonder how many of these calls were bail out calls, or touchy calls, or borderline calls, or superstar calls?

Bottom line: Kobe's good. Very good. He can absolutely finish a game the Lakers are winning by hitting jumpers and getting to the line. But, he's not the best at winning games in the clutch. And he's surely no MJ. Remember when MJ passed to Kerr and Paxson? Those were the plays MJ made. Who besides Kobe has made a game winner for the Lakers? Horry, on an amazing shot that he took after getting an offensive rebound and Fischer, who made an insane shot on an inbounds play. Both of these were against the Spurs in different years.


Luke said...

Here's my take on Kobe ... I wish more people would do this:

I'd like to propose a moment of silence for the great Chris Childs, everybody!

Val said...

I didn't read any part of this post - were you saying Kobe sucks? OK I thought so.

N.a.t.e. said...

what a waste of words...vik, the fact that you tried your absolute best to pull the most obsolete bs from the "internet out there" shows your distaste for kobe...just the mere fact that you looked for something...anything, to validate your hate for this dude says you are absolutely not a true basketball your your your your own dang words that say kobe is one of the greatest...these stats are meaningless bc of the slim and marginal (your) definition of about who the F takes over games in the last 5-7 minutes when their team is either a)tied with the other b) down by three posessions or more c)up, with the other team closing in on the lead...who gives a rat azz??? watch the games for yourself and then you won't have to look at some obscure website run by statistical geeks who wack off while watching re-runs of animal clearly stated you are a true basketball fan, yet you barely watch any of the games or players that you criticize or praise...yes, Kobe made a mistake in Colorado (although i think you disliked him long before that)...yes, Kobe walks similar to MJ...Yes, Kobe's talent level is near MJs...yes, Kobe has ball hogged in the past and throws up crazy shots (a-la MJ)...yes, Kobe wins...real Kobe fans seem him for what he is...Kobe Bryant...THERE IS ONLY ONE MJ, AND THERE IS ONLY ONE KOBE, SO STOP COMPARING feathers ruffled by this post...but i had to speak my mind on what i thought about still my boy and the texans may acutally win more games than they lose this year...i still think they should have gotten the left handed QB that played with steve slaton at WV though...

Jordy said...

I'll take 'The rapists' for 300.

N.a.t.e., Kobe's overrated. I read that on the internet. So, it's true.

Vik Vij said...

Nate, allow me to address some of your concerns one by one. Again, this is not intended to start (or continue) an argument between us about Kobe. This is intended to refute the idea that Kobe is an unparalleled success in making game winning shots. The data speaks for itself.

These stats came from This is not some random website. This is a statistical data base that media outlets such as,,,, numerous newspapers, etc use for basketball stats. They have comprehensive data going back many years. This isn't some guys blog (which, apparently, anyone can sign up for). This isn't "obsolete" by any stretch.

The definition of "game winning", as defined by the study on, is essentially the perfect definition of game winning. When one shot can take a team that is losing and propel them to victory. One shot. From a deficit. To a victor. If you can define "game winning" better than that, I would love to hear it.

I have watched nearly all of the Lakers games this post season. I didn't watch Game 3 because of bar preparation. So, I think you were off base there. I'm not just spitting out what I heard on ESPN or read in the Chronicle. I would put my knowledge of the NBA up there with anybody.

I think I made the case for Kobe as an incredible closer, i.e. a player who can nurse a 3 or 5 point lead and put the game on ice, whether by jump shots or getting to the line. In terms of those two skills, I don't think Kobe has a superior. I don't think we are arguing about that; Kobe is incredible at finishing games.

In terms of the personal habits of the people who run the website, I can offer no personal knowledge, and, if they watch Animal Planet, so be it. Who are we to judge?

I'm sure those same people are statistical "nerds" (for lack of a better term) but I think they offer a valuable service. Information. Information is king in this era. Information or stat "geeks" are important. We don't need people like Britney Spears or TO in charge. We need highly educated and intelligent people making decisions. Like BHO. I would rather roll the dice with somebody who is not as socially adept but highly intelligent that a suave and cool moron. I think we can agree there.

I did not make mention AT ALL of Colorado. You, sir, mentioned Colorado. I spoke only of Kobe's ability to make "game winning" shots, as defined in the study on

I compared him to Jordan only because that was what was said on, sportscenter, etc, in terms of Kobe's ability to make game winning shots. The image that Kobe has is somebody who comes through with game winning shots. The reality of that, however, as evidenced by the study, is that he is not the best at "game winning" shots, nor is he even above the league average.

I appreciate your comments; they definetly help to make this blog more interactive. In regards to the Texans, drafting Pat White would have been great for the Texans but he was snatched in the second round by Miami. Most people were surprised by that move, as he went at least one round earlier than most had expected. But, at the end of day, he's a Dolphin, and, if he's successful, nobody will care that he was drafted one round ahead of where "experts" thought he would go.

N.a.t.e. said...

@ jordy...good one! lol...although it wasn't rape if she consented...

@ vik...ok, so i knew you would absolutely come back with something great...and yes, blogs are great for talking ish...especially while watching The Hangover and sipping on Tito's (not that I was doing both while typing my response on the matter). Vik, all good points...I'm going to cop out and take the low road at this point and say none of it matters if Kobe wins this year! The only stat that folks will care about is 4 rings and 1 of those without Shaq (finally)...

Texans 9-7 this year, or do they have a full break out year and go 11-5, 12-4...I think the AFC South will be down this year...I think the Texans def have their best opp to shock some folks. What do you think?

Vik Vij said...

Nate, in the end, rings are all that matters in terms of defining a "winner" and I think Kobe winning one without Shaq would be pretty big for his career.

I think the AFC south is winnable for the Texans. they need some people to stay healthy, Schaub especially, and improved play from the defense. I think the Titans will take a step back, after all Kerry Collins is the QB. The Jags have been hit or miss this decade and the Colts are without Dungy and Marvin.

Of course, you know I'll be pulling for them to win every week, but I think 10-6 is attainable. I would hope for the playoffs, but to play meaningful games in December would be a solid step towards becoming a perennial playoff team.

I think they are a corner and a safety away. Perhaps those players are on the roster and yet to emerge. I hope so, but I don't know.

N.a.t.e said...

I will admit, the Texans might end up with a better record than the Cowboys. The giants and the eagles are going to be good this year...I'm sorry, they look good on paper...and at the end of the day, I don't trust Romo

Shaq said...

Kobe couldn't win shit without me.

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

I would take Kevin Pittsnogle from 3-point land for the W any day of the week. If Kobe had played his career with the Golden State Warriors instead of the Lakers, he'd just be the guy most likely to get shanked by Stephen Jackson in the showers/run over by Monta Ellis' moped/urinated on by Don Nelson after a post-game Johnnie Walker bender.