Kobe Vs. Jordan: Using Statistics To Determine Who Is Better Kobe Bryant Or Michael Jordan

For the past decade the comparisons between Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan have persisted and the debate between the fans of each has only grown as Kobe Bryant cemented his dominance on the court in the past decade. When he entered the league in 1996 Kobe was only a skinny 17 year old while Jordan had returned from his first of three retirements to begin another three-peat with the Chicago Bulls. So when fans try to prove which man was the better basketball player it is usually done based on their memories and personal bias for Michael or Kobe. What I would like to do in this article is compare each based on their individual statistics and then in the next article study their teammates and determine who played with better players.

No matter what the final verdict of Kobe vs Jordan cannot be rendered until Kobe hangs it up. However, since the Lakers star has gone through his prime and gotten from under the shadow of Shaq and has won a championship without him there are finally enough numbers to compare him against Michael Jordan.

Notes about which seasons I used for statistics

To make this a bit more balanced I will only count Jordan’s stats while he was with the Bulls and obviously omit his second year in the league in which he was injured pretty much the whole season. Also, for Jordan I will not count the 1994-95 season in which he came back for 17 games. For Kobe since he came into the league out of high school and wasn’t a full time starter until the lockout shortened 1998-1999 season I will only count his stats from that season until the present, except for one case his 1997-98 head to head match ups against Michael Jordan.

Head to Head 1997-98

In their first meeting during this season the Chicago Bulls defeated the Lakers 104-83. This was Kobe’s second season in the NBA and he would be named to his first all-star game by the fans when he was only 19 years old. This was Michael Jordan’s last season with the Bulls on their way to the 6th NBA title.

While the Bulls won handedly this game was very interesting because Kobe came off of the bench for 29 minutes of action and scored 33 points against MJ. Jordan had 36 points in 35 minutes.

Kobe shot 9-15 from inside the arc and 3 of 5 from 3 point range. Percentage wise Kobe shot better than Jordan did who went 11-20 from two and 1-2 from three.

In their second meeting of the season just before the all-star break the Lakers would this time blow out the Bulls. Jordan scored 29 points but not his best effort shooting only going 11-26. Kobe had 20 points in the game once again coming off of the bench.

Finally, the 1998 NBA All Star game in which Jordan in the East won the game (he also took home the MVP) but Kobe poured in 18 points including a nasty 360 dunk. Bryant also angered Karl Malone when he called off a screen the Mail Man was trying to set on Michael Jordan.

These games were as good as we got to see. Kobe was still a teenager and Jordan was past his prime. MJ got two of the three wins but statistically Kobe seems to take the match-up with his limited minutes and high output.

Two Point FG

One thing becomes clear when we look at our sample of data Michael Jordan attempted many more shots than did Kobe Bryant from two point range.

Breaking it down Michael Jordan made 10,065 out of 19,176 attempts which equals 52.5% from inside the arc.

Kobe Bryant on the other hand made 7,102 out of 14,567 shots which equals 48.8% from the same distance. Although Jordan shot many more times than did Kobe he still bested the Lakers guard by 3.7%.

Advantage: Michael Jordan

Three Point Shooting

Kobe Bryant likes to shoot the three much more than Jordan ever did. During our sample time frame Kobe made 1177-3473 attempts from three point land which averages to 33.9%.

Meanwhile Michael Jordan while playing for the Bulls hit 536-1620 attempts from three which equals 33% from outside. Kobe maintains a slightly higher average with more than double the attempts and therefore takes this category.

Advantage: Kobe Bryant

Free Throw Shooting

Kobe: 6044-7185 84.1%

Jordan: 6584-7854 83.8%

This category was almost dead even but Bryant edges him by .3%. Jordan did get to the line a whole lot more however, but when you look at their teams FG attempts per game from our sample the Bulls attempted 86 shots a game while the Lakers only attempted 80. This fact might help account for the attempts from the line if Jordan’s teams were getting more possessions he would naturally get to the line more often.

Advantage: Kobe

Points and Minutes Per Game

Kobe averaged 27.2 points per game in 39.2 minutes of work for our time frame.

MJ averaged 29.1 points per game in 38.8 minutes.

The advantage seems to skew slightly Jordan when you look at .75 points per minute of action versus Kobe’s .69 points per minute average.

But what is interesting is that for every minute Michael Jordan was on the floor he attempted .71 shots compared to .54 shots per minute for Kobe. So yes Jordan had better averages but he also attempted more shots roughly 28 to 21 for Kobe per game.

This category is tricky because MJ did score more points in slightly less time than did Kobe but he also got a lot more shots for his team.

Advantage: Jordan


The rebounds per game were almost exactly the same but Jordan gets the edge with his 5.79 average compared to 5.77.

Advantage: Jordan


This was an interesting category because detractors of Kobe Bryant always claim that he is such a huge ball hog. Well in this category Kobe averages 5.12 assists per game versus Jordan’s average of 4.99. Jordan as we have seen also got more shots than Kobe has gotten so maybe they’re both ball hogs but I tend to think they’re just both amazing players.

Advantage: Kobe


Jordan takes this category by a fairly large margin with a 2.3 steals per game average while Kobe musters just 1.63 in comparison.

Advantage: Jordan


Michael wins another category with a lower turnover per game average of 2.57. Kobe averages 3.12 for our sample.

Advantage: Jordan

Percentage of FG Attempts and Scoring for Team

During the twelve year period we have covered for Kobe Bryant he has taken 23.5% of his teams’ field goal attempts while contributing 26.2% of the teams total points. Kobe’s stats may be slightly more than this when the games he has missed are taken into account which number many more than Jordan who often played the full season.

Michael Jordan attempted 27.1% of his teams’ shots and scored 29.8% of his teams points. I don’t know if I can take away any advantages from this category sure Jordan scored a higher percentage of his teams’ points but also played in a large percentage of games and took a higher percentage of shots. Because of these facts Kobe may very well been a larger contributor with more shot attempts.

Advantage: Push

Final Talley

Kobe wins: 3 point percentage, free throw percentage, and assists.

MJ wins: 2 point fg percentage, rebounds, steals, and turnovers

Jordan also has the advantage in points per minute and a larger share of his teams’ scoring. However, he also got to attempt more shots. If these discrepancies are taken away the two men are extremely well matched. So who is the better player? It’s hard to say but I think there is a slight edge towards Michael Jordan. It is also clear that the people who say Kobe isn’t in the same league as Jordan are definitely wrong and any other differences in accomplishments are factors of the times in which they played and who they were paired with on the court. If Jordan is the greatest of all time then Kobe figures to not be that far behind.

Written by TarHeels3212
Writing online for my financial freedom.
Follow my blog: http://chetsteadmanridesagain.blogspot.com/
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