Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant. Both players have had incredible careers, but there are a few key differences between them. For one, Tim Duncan has played his entire career with the San Antonio Spurs, while Kobe Bryant spent the majority of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Additionally, Duncan is known for his defensive prowess, while Kobe was one of the most lethal scorers in NBA history.
In this blog, we will compare the two NBA greats, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant. We will look at their playing styles, strengths, and weaknesses. Who do you think is the better player?
It’s difficult to argue against putting both players so high. NBA legends have proved to be winners. With five titles and four championships, Kobe and Duncan are among the most successful players in NBA history.
The best players have also shown to be dominant on both sides of the floor. Kobe and Duncan are two of just three players who have been named to both the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams at least ten times (the third being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
These figures, along with 13 All-Star appearances each, demonstrate that these two players have been dominating over an extended period of time—a characteristic shared by only the finest NBA players throughout history.
Furthermore, both Duncan and Bryant have demonstrated effectiveness in leading their teams and succeeding in pressure circumstances.
However, with so many parallels, there are a few distinctions to consider when comparing Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan.
Kobe Bryant: 5 (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010)
- Finals Record: 5-2
Tim Duncan: 5 (1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2014)
- Finals Record: 5-1
Kobe Bryant, 21, started the Lakers’ three-peat in 2000, joining up with Shaq, Glen Rice, Ron Harper, A. C. Green, Derek Fisher, and Robert Horry to storm the NBA with the league’s best defense. Bryant tormented rival guards on the perimeter, while Shaq frightened opposing centers on the less fun end.
The Lakers raised their second banner in 2001, when Bryant and Shaq dominated the league, both scoring more than 28.0 points per game. Rick Fox, Horace Grant, and Isaiah Rider joined the squad, providing seasoned toughness to the Purple and Gold.
The Lakers completed their three-peat in 2002 with a weakened starting lineup that included Lindsey Hunter, Samaki Walker, and Rick Fox surrounding Shaq and Kobe. Bryant’s perimeter supremacy and Shaq’s interior dominance were enough to lift the Purple and Gold over the hump one more time.
Kobe won his fourth championship in 2009 with a revamped Lakers team. Pau Gasol replaced Shaq. Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, Andrew Bynum, Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar, and Luke Walton joined the Purple and Gold’s two incumbents, Kobe and Fish, in defeating the Orlando Magic in the finals.
Kobe Bryant won his fifth championship in 2010, defeating the Boston Celtics in seven games in the finals. Kobe, 31, owned the postseason, averaging 29.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 5.5 APG as the Lakers stormed through the Western Conference, losing just two games before defeating their east coast rivals.
Tim Duncan won his first title with David Robinson in 1998-99, becoming San Antonio’s now-famous “Twin Towers.” Duncan and Robinson dominated the league with their defense, erecting an impenetrable wall in the interior and giving rival teams fits throughout the regular season and playoffs.
Tim Duncan won his second championship in 2003 after witnessing Kobe and Shaq three-peat. Duncan’s second title team included David Robinson in a lesser role, with new arrivals Tony Parker, Stephen Jackson, Bruce Bowen, and Manu Ginobili making an exceptional two-way core.
Tim Duncan won his third title two years later, in 2005. David Robinson retired from the Spurs in this incarnation, while Robert Horry and Rasho Nesterovic joined the team to provide Duncan some frontcourt backup. At the same time, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Brent Barry offered perimeter shot-making and passing, while Bruce Bowen played All-Defensive Team perimeter defense.
Tim Duncan, 30, won his fourth championship in 2007 with one of the league’s toughest defenses since the Bad Boy Pistons. Tim Duncan served as the league’s top rim protector, and Bruce Bowen hounded the other team’s best perimeter option night after night. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Brent Barry, and Robert Horry were still part of the Spurs core, while Michael Finley provided off-the-dribble scoring.
Tim Duncan won his fifth and last title at the age of 37 in the 2013-14 season. The Spurs were the ideal team, with Tony Parker leading the league in nightly scoring at a modest 16.7 points per game. San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich depended on an extraordinarily deep roster—T. Parker, T. Duncan, K. Leonard, M. Ginobili, M. Belinelli, P. Mills, B. Diaw, D. Green, C. Joseph, and T. Splitter—to pile up victories and help a crippled Duncan win it all for the last time.
Finals MVP Awards
- Kobe Bryant: 2 (2009,2010)
- Tim Duncan: 3 (1999, 2003, 2005)
After witnessing teammate Shaq earns three Finals MVP Awards during the Lakers’ turn-of-the-century three-peat, Kobe Bryant won back-to-back Finals MVP medals during the Purple and Gold’s 2009 and 2010 championship seasons. In the 2009 finals, Kobe was at his best, averaging 32.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, and 1.4 BPG in 43.8 minutes per night as the Purple and Gold defeated the Orlando Magic 4 to 1.
Bryant led the Lakers and Celtics in scoring in 2010, averaging 28.6 points per game against Boston’s feared defense while also averaging 8.0 rebounds per game, 3.9 assists per game, 2.1 assists per game, and 0.7 blocks per game as LA prevailed in a hard-fought seventh game.
Tim Duncan won his first of three Finals MVP Awards during his second season in the league. He led the Spurs to the title in five games against the Knicks in 1999, posting a series-high 27.4 PPG and 14.0 RPG along with 2.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, and 2.2 BPG as he harassed New York with his inside defense.
The Big Fundamental won his second Finals MVP Award in 2003, averaging 24.2 PPG, 17.0 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, and 5.3 BPG against the New Jersey Nets in one of the finest two-way devastating displays in NBA finals history. Tim Duncan earned his third Finals MVP award in 2005, against the Detroit Pistons, with 20.6 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.4 SPG, and 2.1 BPG.
Advantage: Tim Duncan
NBA MVP Awards
- Kobe Bryant: 1 (2008)
- Tim Duncan: 2 (2002, 2003)
Kobe Bryant loses this duel with Tim Duncan 2-1, but in the 2005-06 season, the league robbed him of the MVP award in outrageous ways. In 2005-06, Kobe averaged a league-high 35.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, and 0.4 BPG while leading the Lakers to a 45-37 record and making the playoffs.
Smush Parker, Chris Mihm, and Kwame Brown!!!!!
Kobe Bryant lost the MVP Award to Steve Nash despite outperforming him in WS, PER, VORP, BPM, PPG, RPG, SPG, and BPG.
- Black Mamba earned his one and only MVP Award in 2007-08, averaging 28.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.8 SPG, and 0.5 BPG for the 57-25 Lakers.
- Tim Duncan had his finest overall season in 2001-02, averaging 25.5 PPG, 12.7 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.7 SPG, and 2.5 BPG while leading the league in total win shares with 17.8.
Tim earned the MVP Award with 57 first-place votes, beating off second-place Jason Kidd (45 first-place votes). The Big Fundamental won his second MVP award the next season, beating out Kevin Garnett with 23.3 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 3.9 APG, 0.7 SPG, 2.9 BPG, and a league-high 16.5 WS.
Advantage: Tim Duncan
- Kobe Bryant: 15 (11 First Team, 2 Second Team, 2 Third Team)
- Tim Duncan: 15 (10 First Team, 3 Second Team, 2 Third Team)
Kobe Bryant was named to the All-NBA First Team 11 times, the All-NBA Second Team twice, and the All-NBA Third Team twice. From 2002 to 2004, Kobe Bryant was chosen to the All-NBA First Team three times in a row, averaging a whopping 26.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, and 0.6 BPG.
He was named to the All-NBA Third Team in 2005 before embarking on an eight-year All-NBA First Team run from 2006 to 2013, accumulating a massive 91.7 win shares along with 28.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.5 SPG, and 0.4 BPG.
Tim Duncan was named to the All-NBA First Team eleven times, the All-NBA Second Team three times, and the All-NBA Third Team twice. Between 1998 and 2007, the Big Fundamental had a historic streak of All-NBA First Team honors, being selected one of the league’s greatest big men nine times in a row.
During that time, he averaged 22.1 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, and 2.5 BPG while posting a league-high 65.9 defensive win shares. Tim Duncan’s two-way, mistake-free basketball wrenched the league’s axis precisely over San Antonio.
- Kobe Bryant: 18 All-Star Appearances, 4 All-Star Game MVPs
- Tim Duncan: 15 All-Star appearances, 1 All-Star Game MVP
Tim Duncan was named to the All-Star team 15 times throughout his career, including every year of his peak save the 1998-99 season when the league postponed the event due to the NBA lockout. Tim Duncan won one All-Star MVP Award in 2000, scoring 24 points, 14 rebounds, and four assists in 33 minutes to help the Western Conference defeat their east coast rivals.
Kobe Bryant was an All-Star in 18 of his 20 seasons. Between 1999-20 and 2015-16, he made the team 17 years in a row. Kobe, the ultimate competitor, earned four All-Star MVP awards. His finest performance occurred during the 2011 NBA mid-season classic when he put up 37 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals in only 29 minutes as his Western Conference team won.
Advantage: Kobe Bryant
- Kobe Bryant: 12 (9 First Team, 3 Second Team)
- Tim Duncan: 15 (8 First Team, 7 Second Team)
Throughout his career, Kobe Bryant was chosen to the All-Defensive First Team nine times and the All-Defensive Second Team three times. Kobe was known for his two-way play and chased his perimeter assignments with a ferocious ferocity rarely seen in the NBA.
Despite his heart breaking through his ribs and crawling out of his chest at the conclusion of games, Kobe disregarded the pain and dug in, shutting off the opposition team’s greatest offensive option night after night over his 20-year career.
Tim Duncan is one of the top defenders in the NBA. He entered the league as a 21-year-old rookie and soon tormented his opponents into submission, earning his first of seven All-Defensive Second Team accolades. From 1999 through 2008, the Big Fundamental was named to eight All-Defensive First Teams. Duncan didn’t appear as ripped as Dwight Howard or Karl Malone, but he possessed a natural power focused on his core that made him an immovable force in the lane against opposing big men. He also possessed exceptional timing and court awareness, which helped him to guard the rim for the San Antonio Spurs.
Advantage: Tim Duncan
Total Win Shares
- Kobe Bryant: 172.7 WS
- Tim Duncan; 206.4 WS
Win Shares is a statistic that attempts to distribute a team’s victories to each player on the roster. For example, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar set a single-season record for Win Shares with 25.4 in 1971-72 while playing for the Milwaukee Bucks, who won 63 games. Kareem is credited with 25.4 of those victories.
Kobe Bryant finished his career with 172.7 Win Shares, ranking him 19th all-time. Kobe had a career-high of 15.3 Win Shares during the 2005-06 season, but he never led the league in this advanced category since his 32.9 three-point percentage weighed down his efficiency in an otherwise stellar offensive career.
Tim Duncan is seventh all-time in Win Shares with a remarkable 206.4 in 1,392 games. Tim Duncan topped the league in total Win Shares twice, in 2002 (17.8 WS) and 2003 (17.8 WS) (16.5 WS). He amassed his gigantic WS totals on the less glamorous end, amassing 106.34 Defensive Win Shares, the second-best number in NBA history.
Advantage: Tim Duncan
Career Player Efficiency Rating (PER)
- Kobe Bryant: 22.9 PER
- Tim Duncan; 24.2 PER
Player Efficiency Evaluation, or PER, is a statistic developed by John Hollinger with the objective of providing a thorough rating to each NBA player. Hollinger’s PER measure is unusual in that it considers both a player’s positive and negative contributions on the court.
In terms of PER, Michael Jordan is the all-time leader with 27.91, Karl-Anthony Towns is 10th all-time with 24.80, and Stephen Curry is 20th all-time with 23.84.
Kobe Bryant’s career PER of 22.9 ranks him 28th all-time in the NBA. Kobe Bryant was a dominant force throughout his career. Nonetheless, he only had an effective field goal percentage of more than 50% in four of his 20 seasons, and he only shot at an above-league-average clip from deep in two of his 20 seasons, which lowered his efficiency figures significantly.
Tim Duncan’s 24.2 PER ranks him 17th all-time. Duncan’s enormous lifetime rebound percentages (26.5 DRB%) and block percentages (4.6 BLK%) offer him a PER boost. Timmy also finished his career with an efficient 50.7 eFG% and a 55.1 true shooting percentage, both remarkable marks for a big who only took 31.0% of his career shots at the rim.
Advantage: Tim Duncan
- Kobe Bryant vs. Tim Duncan 1-5
Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant were two of the top players in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Each player won five titles, and while Tim Duncan won our head-to-head matchup with Bryant, the rivalry was considerably closer than the final score of 5 to 1.
Tim Duncan won the Finals MVP Awards 3 to 2 and the regular-season MVP race 2 to 1, but Kobe was cheated during the 2005-06 season when he led the league in scoring at 35.4 PPG.
Tim Duncan also has a 15-point advantage over Kobe in All-Defensive selections and wins the advanced stat duel with more Win Shares and a slightly higher PER.
Duncan and Kobe are all-time greats who played some of the finest two-way basketball in NBA history.
One aspect that has distinguished both Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan from other players is their ability to thrive in the postseason.
Duncan has put on some shows for the ages during his title campaigns. While he didn’t have a dominant Shaquille O’Neal in a number of those runs, Duncan had plenty of support on his teams.
Among the stars and role players on those teams were David Robinson, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Bruce Bowen, Sean Elliott, Avery Johnson, Stephen Jackson, and Robert Horry.
Kobe has received assistance as well. Aside from O’Neal, Kobe has worked with Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Glen Rice, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, Ron Artest, and Robert Horry.
However, there is something about Gregg Popovich’s style that appears to get the best out of outside shooters. Duncan seemed to be surrounded by some of the league’s finest three-point shooters almost every season.
Brent Barry, Bruce Bowen, Manu Ginobili, Matt Bonner, Roger Mason, Steve Smith, Danny Ferry, Steve Kerr, Terry Porter, Sean Elliott, and Antonio Daniels have all been exceptional outside shooters.
Each of these players has shot at least 40% from outside the arc during at least one season while playing with Duncan.
A comparable list for Kobe Bryant’s teams would include Derek Fisher, Brian Cook, Vladimir Radmanovic, and Sasha Vujacic. Aside from Fisher, these guys were not as consistently dominant from the three-point range.
So, what does this imply for Kobe and Duncan?
Having teammates who are terrific long-range bombs opens up the floor. This has given Duncan a significant edge over Kobe over his career, allowing him to play with greater space in half-court settings.
Furthermore, Duncan has usually always had at least one or two All-Star level players on each of his teams.
While Kobe had Shaq in his early years and Pau Gasol in recent seasons, it may be argued that Kobe’s Lakers teams have been less skilled overall than Duncan’s Spurs squads.
In the end, scoring is the most crucial aspect of basketball. While defense leads to championships, a team cannot win without putting scores on the board. This is why most of the finest players in NBA history were explosive scorers.
When it comes to scoring the basketball, there is no comparison between Bryant and Duncan. Kobe is a ball hog, and Duncan does not receive as many shots every game.
The finest scorers in NBA history, on the other hand, assert themselves—they want to take the difficult shots in crunch time.
No one was a ball hog like Michael Jordan, but he is regarded as the game’s greatest legend.
Similarly, Kobe has done incredible things with basketball. These include his 81-point game (the single most remarkable scoring effort in NBA history), outscoring the Dallas Mavericks 62-61 over three quarters (a feat never before accomplished), scoring at least 40 points nine games in a row, and scoring 50 or more points four games in a row.
Intangibles are another point of distinction between Duncan and Bryant. Both have a great understanding of the game and have been great motivators for their teammates (albeit each in their own ways).
However, one area where Kobe excels above Duncan is clutch ability. Tim Duncan may be successful in crunch time, but Kobe Bryant is a cold-blooded killer.
Whereas Tim Duncan has cheerfully deferred to Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in critical circumstances, Kobe Bryant always likes to take late-game shots in close games.
As a result, Kobe has more game-winning shots than any other player in contemporary NBA history. Not surprisingly, NBA general managers routinely rank Kobe as the league’s top clutch player—a survey he easily wins every time.
One point of comparison is the Summer Olympics. Duncan had a huge edge down low for Team USA in 2004.
Rather than taking leadership to lead the team, the squad ended up with a bronze medal.
Meanwhile, at the 2008 Olympics, Kobe Bryant became the star among stars in the gold medal game, winning the desired medal that Duncan had missed out on throughout his career.
Throughout the Olympic games, coaches and players praised Bryant’s ability to motivate his teammates to play at their best and to play solid defense.
- Read more: Kobe Bryant vs Michael Jordan
1. Did Tim Duncan like Kobe Bryant?
Duncan had quite a few epic games against Kobe and the Lakers, and what he mentioned as the most important is that those moments bring out the best in you. As a competitor and an athlete, there is no greater privilege than to match up against the best in your sport while showing mutual respect for each other.
2. Is Tim Duncan the most underrated?
“I think Tim Duncan is the most underrated athlete in American sports history,” Acho said on Wednesday’s edition of “Speak For Yourself.” “To me, Tim Duncan is a top-five NBA player.
3. Who was better, Magic or Kobe?
While Magic’s intangibles place him ahead of Kobe, Kobe’s tangible qualities put him ahead of Magic. Magic Johnson is one of the best all-around players of all time, as he averaged 19.5 PPG, 11.2 APG, and 7.2 APG. However, one can argue that Bryant’s on-court play is even more impressive.
There is no clear winner in the Duncan vs. Kobe debate. Both players have had remarkable careers and have been extremely successful. Duncan has the edge in terms of championships, but Kobe has the edge in terms of individual awards. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide who is the better player.