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Kobe vs. Michael

December 18, 2014

The only news the lowly Los Angeles Lakers have made in the early portion of the 2014-15 season is that Kobe Bryant has caught and passed Michael Jordan on the all-time career points list.

Bryant surpassed Jordan last week and now ranks third on the all-time scoring list. The event has opened up the debate again. Who is the better player between the two?

It has always been an easy comparison. They play the same position (shooting guard), are built similarly (both stand 6 feet 6 onces and weigh about 200 pounds).

Michael Jordan & Kobe Bryant

They seem to possess the same maniac, it seems, work ethic, and even have similar-looking games. Bryant’s championship count (five) even rivals Jordan’s six. In the minds of many fans, Bryant is the closest to Jordan the game has seen since Jordan retired in 2003.

Jordan came first and he was a revolutionary figure. We never saw anything like Air Jordan. That, alone, makes it tough for Kobe to measure up to Jordan. Objectively, there are obvious similarities. So I took a look at statistics.

Statistically, Jordan was better than Bryant at both ends of the court. Especially offensively.

Jordan was much more efficient. Why? Jordan shot the ball more accurately than Bryant, with a true shooting percentage of .580 to Bryant’s .556 —and that number even includes Bryant’s superior three-point shooting and a slight edge to Bryant at the free throw line as well. This means Jordan’s shooting advantage was almost totally driven by a better success rate on 2-pointers.

Jordan also protected the ball much better than Bryant. Between the ages of 21 and 34, Jordan turned the ball over on just 9.3 percent of his possessions, the best rate ever among players with such a high volume of shooting. Bryant isn’t exactly careless with the ball, but Jordan’s combination of a high usage rate, great shooting efficiency, a good assist rate and miniscule rate of turnovers is what makes him arguably the best offensive player of the NBA’s post-merger era.

Johnny Football Flopped

The “Johnny Manziel Show” debuted last Sunday with more promotion than successful veteran quarterbacks generally experience.

The Cleveland-Cincinnati game was the featured CBS game nationally at 1 p.m.—and Manziel had a terrible afternoon. Johnny Football was 10 for 18 through the air for a measly 80 yards and threw two interceptions. He led his team to no points and the subsequent loss knocked the Browns out of playoff contention.

Wallace Gilberry

This story has been told time and time again ever since the NFL was formed. None of this is surprising for a rookie QB in his first start.

But, Manziel has made it much harder on himself than necessary by earning the wrath of defensive players around the NFL.

You know defenders, and Manziel haters, had to love it when Bengal Defensive End Wallace Gilberry sacked Manziel and stood over the rookie QB flashing the money sign that Johnny has made his trademark. Gilberry later said “he brought it on himself.”

“Everything was all about Manziel all week,” said veteran LB Rey Maualuga, who was flagged for knocking down a pass and taunting Manziel. Veteran players are clearly upset about the Manziel circus, and his taunting of the Redskins during the pre-season.

Johnny Manziel

I must admit. I enjoyed Manziel being knocked down a peg or two. I have spoken time and time again in these pages that Manziel would be best served by adopting a low-key, under-the-radar profile of other highly paid rookies entering the NFL. It is important to earn the respect of the management, coaches and players and understand the need for performance on the field being the key.

Adjusting to the pro game requires being on the field and reading defenses for some time before it all clicks. There is a natural adjustment cycle that any rookie QB must experience. Keeping expectations low can take the pressure off the rookie.

I think the jury is out on if Manziel will become an average NFL quarterback. While the jury is deliberating, I think he should think about letting his play on the field speak for him and keep those twitchy money flashing fingers in his pockets.













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