Kobe Bryant's 81-point performance the other night against Toronto was certainly incredible, but it is unfair to try and compare what Kobe did to what Michael Jordan did in his playing career or what he could have done for that matter.
In the era when Michael played, it was a physical game. Defense was promoted. Guys took pride in it. Today defense is no longer a part of the game. Guys are driving to the basket. There are rules where you can't step in front of them. To me, it is taking away from the game seeing a guy like Tony Parker taking advantage of the rules. He is shooting 55 percent from the field. That says something about the game itself. In the history of the NBA, I'm sure a point guard has never led the league in field goal percentage. It's a different game now. It's really not about being tough and physical because the NBA isn't a physical game anymore. When you talk about how the Knicks and Bulls used to battle in the early '90s, the Oakleys, and Pat Ewings, the Masons, and how they would have the ability to use their hands to put you in a trap position. There is no way you can even triple team a guy now and stop him. Any contact is a foul. I can't compare the two players because I see it as two different games. If I'm guarding Kobe Bryant in today's game, I couldn't be the defender I was known as.
The defensive rules, the hand checking, the ability to make contact on a guy in certain areas, the ability to come over in the lane to stop guys from getting to the basket, that's all been taken away from the game. There is no contact up on the floor. The way I played Magic Johnson in the '91 Finals, I would have fouled out the first time down court. To compare how someone would have played Michael Jordan, Chuck Daly would send someone to wear him down. Even though he may get 30 or 40 points, they're going to be a hard 30 points. But in today's game, you can't put that physical wear and tear on a guy. It's a free ball type of game. If you are shooting it well, you can score 80, as you've seen because you are going to get to the foul line.
Officials have very quick whistles now because they're promoting scoring. Let's not forget, three years ago, this league was trying to figure out how they could get the scoring back up, how they could drive the fans back into loving the game, and this is what they were building on. They changed the field of rules. Those rules are huge in the game today. They benefit the perimeter guy. Back in the day, you may get one guy to score 40 points in a month. When Michael Jordan scored 40, it was all over the front page of a newspaper. Now you can pretty much have 40 points at halftime. Until the league went and changed the rules and tried to get some of that bully ball out, you couldn't come out and perform like that every night. The game was too physical. You were too sore the next day and you were just tired and physically worn down. The game seems so fun and free now. Guys are making a living just standing out there shooting jumpers.
If you want to say that Kobe could get 100, I would say that Michael could get 100. If Kobe could get 81, I think Michael could get 100 in today's game. I think the psychological style that Michael was able to master in the game, puts him far beyond Kobe. But Kobe's youthfulness has put him in a position where it looks like he is overtaking Michael. Kobe has 10 years in this league. That is a lot of experience to have and still be a very youthful player.
I would love to see what would have happened the other night if the rules had been the same as in past years. Kobe is as close to being like Mike as anybody, but you can't make the comparisons anymore. Tracy McGrady can probably, from a numbers standpoint, put up the numbers Michael Jordan put up. He has that type of ability. Dirk Nowitzki can put up those kinds of numbers. The game is built for those guys to put those shots up. If they get touched, they get to the foul line. I would say Kobe is the most polished of all of them as far as being able to handle the ball and create his own shot and opportunity. But this is what the game is going to turn into. Guys are going to start to score 40 points regularly. It may become an average.
I don't think Kobe will get 100. What he did is what like Wilt did, a once in a lifetime experience. Given the fact that he shot a heck of a percentage it could have been better, but I don't think he still could have gotten to 100. It would almost have to be perfect and the game would have to go to overtime. I think a lot of things would have to come into play for him to get that.
With that said, I am sure Phil doesn't want to coach that type of game. It's not his style. I don't expect it to happen again. Phil will probably do everything in his power to make sure it doesn't. I don't think Phil is going to try to promote what Kobe has done more than anything because he has damaged his whole team. You just scored 81 points. Do you need your teammates? Are they going to step up when you need them or are you going to continue to pound them like you've been doing and be selfish just to get some individual accolades?
From a leadership perspective I think Kobe has taken a step back. Look at what he has to live up to now. You just scored 81 points. If you scored 81 points, your team should pretty much go out and win at least 75 percent of their games the rest of the year. Is that fair to say? You just compared yourself to Wilt. Can you go out with your team and do that or are you just going to go out and score tons of points every night? Are you going to get back to the point where you are shooting a lot of shots and you're teammates are not shooting and you're losing?
Right now, Kobe has willed the Lakers to a 22-19 record. It will be interesting to see what happens the rest of the way.
I think he's being a little bias seeing as he obviously played in that era.