In this blog, we will compare and contrast the careers of two NBA legends: Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird. Both players were incredibly successful during their time in the league, but there are some key differences between their games. For instance, Bryant was a much more prolific scorer than Bird, while Bird was a better shooter and passer.
We’ll take a closer look at the stats and achievements of each player to see who comes out on top in this matchup.
Kobe Bryant vs Larry Bird
Kobe Bryant’s place on the all-time list is controversial. Some consider him the GOAT, while others believe he is only a top 20 player of all time. Most people rank him in the top ten of all time, although there is considerable controversy about where he ranks.
Some argue he is the best Laker of all time, which would rank him directly above Magic Johnson on the all-time list because Magic and Kobe both spent their whole careers with the Lakers. To claim Kobe is the greatest Laker of all time is to suggest Kobe is greater than Magic Johnson. Period.
Johnson, in my opinion, is the third-greatest player of all time. My top three are 1) Michael Jordan, 2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and 3) Magic Johnson. Kobe isn’t there…yet.
So Kobe will have to settle for a spot in the fourth through tenth categories. Russell, Wilt, Bird, Shaq, Duncan, and Hakeem are among his opponents. Those are household names. Just being on this list indicates you’ve attained basketball immortality.
But Russell, Wilt, Bird, and Hakeem will not succeed. Duncan and Shaq are still active, but they are unlikely to have a significant enough influence to propel them up the all-time list. So Kobe will have the ability to rise even higher than he is today with more rings and heroics.
When I think of where to place Kobe Bryant, I think of Larry “Legend” Bird. Kobe is better than him. Period. So, wherever you have Bird, move Bryant one slot ahead of him.
To the old-timers, the suggestion is sacrilege. I’ve heard Larry Bird is “simply flat-out better than Kobe Bryant.” However, when both raw and advanced statistics are considered, it is evident that Bryant is the greater performer.
Larry Bird, for example, has a career PER of 23.5. Kobe Bryant has a career player efficiency rating of 23.6. You could think the gap is insignificant, but keep in mind that Kobe entered the league at the age of 17. He didn’t play much during his rookie or sophomore seasons, both of which he had PERs under 20.
The playoffs are no different. Kobe Bryant’s postseason PER average is exactly 22.0, whereas Bird’s is just 21.4. Again, despite entering the league considerably earlier than Larry Bird and playing restricted minutes in his first three years, Kobe’s Player Efficiency Rating is better.
Of course, PER does not determine who is the superior player, but it does disprove the notion that “Bird was just better than Kobe.”
Then you look at all of the star games. Kobe has 12; Bird has 12. When it comes to All-NBA First Teams, Kobe has seven (probably eight after this year), and Bird has nine. Kobe has 11 All-NBA Team honors, while Bird has 10.
So far, Bird and Kobe are as close as they come, but Kobe actually outperforms Bird on the defensive end. Kobe Bryant is a legendary defender. While many fans believe Bryant’s defensive reputation is exaggerated, the NBA coaches have named Kobe to the All-Defensive Team nine times. Only five players in NBA history have had more defensive team selections than Bryant. Bird is not one of them. Throughout his career, he was only chosen three times.
People love to point up Bird’s MVPs over Kobe, but in truth, that is the weakest justification for Bird. First, Bird won in 1984, 1985, and 1986. Who else was going to win? It was either Magic or Bird in the 1980s. There was no one else until Jordan came up, and even then, it took a while for the Bulls to become successful enough for Michael to be considered for MVP.
Kobe will never win an MVP award, but such accolades were never based on a player’s ability. Kobe has played in the most talented period. You will never find an era in history that featured more great—potentially all-time great—players than the one in which Kobe played. Shaq, Duncan, Wade, LeBron, McGrady, Carter, Roy, Nowitzki, Nash, Howard, Garnett—for this era, Kobe is rated better than any of them.
LeBron is getting up to Kobe, but Bird was never considered the league’s finest player by fans or peers. For over a decade, Bryant has been regarded as the finest player in the age of talent.
Politics and personality cost Kobe a few MVP trophies, but his reputation as the game’s finest player in the 2000s remains unblemished. Why should a media award trump a person’s evident reputation among his peers and in his league? Crediting Bird’s MVP titles above Kobe’s reputation as the game’s finest player for so long appears to be more of a formalistic distinction than a meaningful one.
Kobe Bryant vs. Larry Bird Stats
|Kobe Bryant||Career||Larry Bird|
|11,719||Field Goals Made||8,591|
|26,2||Field Goals Attempted||17,334|
|44.7%||Field Goal Percentage||49.6%|
|8,378||Free Throws Made||3,96|
|10,011||Free Throws Attempted||4,471|
|83.7%||Free Throw Percentage||88.6%|
|25.0||Points Per Game||24.3|
|36.1||Minutes Per Game||38.4|
|4.7||Assists Per Game||6.3|
|5.2||Rebounds Per Game||10.0|
|24.9||Points Per 36 Minutes||22.8|
|5.2||Rebounds Per 36 Minutes||9.4|
|4.7||Assists Per 36 Minutes||6.0|
Kobe Bryant played in 1,346 games during his career, clocking 48,637 minutes. Bryant started 1,198 games, averaging 25.0 points per game and totaling 33,643 points. Throughout his career, he averaged 24.9 points per 36 minutes while also collecting 5.2 rebounds and dishing out 4.7 assists.
Bryant had a 44.7% shooting percentage by sinking 11,719 of 26,200 attempts. He got a 3pt percentage of 32.9% by making 1,827 of his 5,546 shots from a distance. He had a 47.9% success percentage by making 9,892 out of 20,654 two-point shots. Bryant made 8,378 of 10,011 free throw attempts, for an 83.7% percentage.
He entered the game with an effective FG rate of 48.2%, but he also had 3,353 personal fouls and 4,010 turnovers. Bryant finished his NBA career with 7,047 total rebounds after grabbing 5,548 defensive boards and 1,499 offensive boards. He has 1,944 steals, 640 blocks, and 6,306 assists. Bryant averaged 2.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game.
Larry Bird played in 897 games and collected 34,443 minutes. Bird has 21,791 points in his NBA career, an average of 24.3 points per game, and has started 870 games. He had 6.0 assists, 9.4 rebounds, and 22.8 points per 36 minutes.
The bird had a 49.6% shooting percentage and made 8,591 of his 17,334 attempts. With 1,727 shots beyond the arc in his pro basketball career, he had a shooting percentage of 37.6%, making 649 of them. He had a 50.9% shooting percentage by making 7,942 of his 15,607 shots.
Bird converted 3,960 of 4,471 attempts for an 88.6% clip. While he had a 51.4% effective field goal percentage, he also had 2,816 turnovers and 2,279 fouls. In his pro basketball career, he grabbed 8,974 rebounds, 7,217 on defense and 1,757 on offense. Bird had 5,695 assists while also providing 1,556 steals and 755 rejections. He averaged 9.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game.
|Kobe Bryant – 2015-16||Most Recent Season||Larry Bird – 1991-92|
|398||Field Goals Made||353|
|1,113||Field Goals Attempted||758|
|35.8%||Field Goal Percentage||46.6%|
|232||Free Throws Made||150|
|281||Free Throws Attempted||162|
|82.6%||Free Throw Percentage||92.6%|
|17.6||Points Per Game||20.2|
|28.2||Minutes Per Game||36.9|
|2.8||Assists Per Game||6.8|
|3.7||Rebounds Per Game||9.6|
|22.4||Points Per 36 Minutes||19.7|
|4.8||Rebounds Per 36 Minutes||9.4|
|3.6||Assists Per 36 Minutes||6.6|
Kobe Bryant started 66 games and played 1,863 minutes. In 66 games, he scored 1,161 points and averaged 17.6 points per battle. Bryant averaged 22.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per 36 minutes. Bryant had a field goal percentage of 35.8% after making 398 of his 1,113 attempts.
Bryant made 133 of his 467 three-point attempts, giving him a 28.5% three-point percentage. He made 265 baskets out of 646 from 2pt land, giving him a 2pt% of 41.0%. Bryant fired 82.6% from the free throw line, sinking 232 of 281 tries.
Last season, Kobe Bryant had an effective FG percentage of 41.7%, 129 turnovers, and 115 violations. Bryant had 247 boards in his final season, including 41 offensive and 206 defensives. Bryant had 184 assists, 62 steals, and 13 blocks in his final season. Bryant averaged 3.74 rebounds and 2.79 assists per game.
Bird averaged 6.8 dimes and 9.6 boards per game. Bird had 33 blocks, 306 assists, and 42 steals. Bird grabbed 46 offensive boards and 388 defensive boards for a total of 434 rebounds.
Larry Bird had 82 fouls in his final season, as well as 125 turnovers and a 50.0% effective field goal percentage. Bird made 150 of his 162 charity stripe tries, for a percentage of 92.6%. His 2-point percentage was 47.8% after converting 301 of 630 tries. Bird ended with a 40.6% three-point shooting percentage, sinking 52 of 128 attempts.
Bird made 353 of 758 shots for a 46.6% field goal percentage. Bird ended with an average of 19.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per 36 minutes. In 45 games, he scored 908 points and averaged 20.2 points per game. Larry Bird played 1,662 minutes of basketball last season, starting 45 games.
NBA Championships and Seasons
|Larry Bird||Kobe Bryant|
Honors and Awards
|Larry Bird||Kobe Bryant|
|All-NBA First Team||9||11|
|All-Defensive 1st Team||0||9|
|Rookie of The Year||1||0|
Did Kobe Bryant ever play against Larry Bird?
The two waged war in one of the most memorable Finals series in NBA history (1984), then battled twice more in the 1985 and 1987 Finals. Bryant never had a rivalry along the lines of the one between Larry and Magic, unless you’re willing to include his own teammates (namely, Shaquille O’Neal).
Who was better, Bird or Jordan?
Bird’s career stats aren’t as glamorous as Jordan’s because his points per game average isn’t as high, but his all-around game was better. Remember, this is about the best player ever, not scorer, winner or clutch performer. What he lacks in scoring by six points, Bird makes up in other categories.
- Read more: Larry Bird vs Michael Jordan
Is Bird better than Magic?
Magic’s regular season stats are fantastic but don’t differ significantly from Larry Bird`s stats. Per game, Bird scored 24.3 points, picked 10 rebounds, and delivered 6.3 assists. In comparison, Magic`s stats are 19.5, 7.2 and 11.2, respectively. However, Magic’s playoff stats are better.
In short, Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird are two of the best basketball players of all time. They both have won multiple championships and have been named MVPs. Kobe is a better scorer than Larry, but Larry is a better shooter. Both players are great defenders. Kobe is a better athlete than Larry, but Larry is a better basketball player.
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