Allen Iverson thinks Kobe Bryant belongs in the NBA’s “greatest of all time” discussion with Michael Jordan and LeBron James, which is just a fun sentence to write when you’ve been watching basketball for the last three decades. Here’s exactly what the Philadelphia 76ers great told the Unguarded:
“LeBron is great, first of all, [but] when they talk about comparing him to Mike, I don’t understand how they don’t have the debate when it comes to Kobe,” said Iverson. “Like, I don’t get it. What, you forgot or something? They forgot? I really think they forgot. I really think they forgot the Mamba, man — the certified serial killer, man.”
Let’s pause for a second to appreciate “they forgot the Mamba, man — the certified serial killer, man” as a turn of phrase from the same poet who brought us “We talkin’ ’bout practice, man.” Good stuff.
Let’s dispense with my biases for a moment, too. I loved Jordan growing up. Same with Iverson. I grew to appreciate Kobe. And I marvel at LeBron. I respect the lot of them, even if they all took it to the Boston teams I grew up watching — and one of them still is. If I’m being honest, I’m not as into the Kobe or LeBron I’ve covered as I was the Jordan and Iverson I watched as a fan, and that’s probably true about most sportswriters. Most fans, too. We’re all nostalgic about the guys we used to watch.
All that said, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball ever, LeBron James is second to him, and Kobe Bryant isn’t close to either of them. I don’t think you’ll get much debate from anyone who isn’t either a LeBron or Kobe Stan. Jordan achieved basketball perfection for six seasons sandwiched around his first retirement, and the NBA hasn’t seen anything else like it, save for Bill Russell leading a loaded Celtics team to 11 titles when there were less than 100 players in the league. The longevity of LeBron’s greatness is unparalleled, even by Kobe, who won five rings, two Finals MVPs and one league MVP.
Which is why it is so striking when Jordan says he would take Kobe over LeBron because “there’s something about five that beats three,” or when Iverson lumps all of them together. Who knows why Jordan thinks Kobe is better, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary (LeBron scores more efficiently and is better in every other facet of the game), other than the fact Jordan played against Kobe, considers him his “little brother,” they share the same killer’s credo (the knock against LeBron), and the #ringz argument only further cements his own legacy against LeBron’s closing argument.
Iverson’s argument is even more interesting. He faced all three — crossing over an aging Jordan, one-man-banding against the Kobe-Shaq Lakers in his prime and giving young LeBron some throwback heat. Maybe the fact his entire career crossed over with Kobe’s has something to do with it. Maybe the love NBA players have for their contemporaries is akin to ours for the guys we grew up watching.
Or maybe he’s just like the rest of us.
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) May 24, 2017
“I love LeBron,” Iverson told Colin Cowherd a year ago. “I hate the comparison with him and Mike. That tells you so much about what type of player he is if you compare somebody to Black Jesus. You know what I mean? But LeBron is going to be on the Mount Rushmore of basketball players, but a guy like me who looked up to Mike the way I did, I can’t put anybody before Mike. I wanted to be like Mike, and so many kids want to be like LeBron.”
I guess what I’m really saying is, just give me Iverson talking about basketball greats all day every day.
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