Well, who won more rings? Let the record reflect that both players won five rings. (I hate the rings count as the ultimate standard when comparing players. Thankfully, in this case, they each have the same count, so there.) (Advantage: Even)
Does the method in which the retirement was brought to the public play any role in the decision-making process? Tim Duncan announced his retirement after the season ended, denying fans from all NBA venues the chance to give him the send-off that he deserved. Of course, such celebrations are not synonymous with Tim Duncan’s standard operating procedure; as a result, leaving quietly fits his life’s script like the well-worn, broken-in shoes people hate to throw away. Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, relished the leading role for his victory lap season, paving the way for the perception that Kobe always put himself first. Perhaps, Kobe’s way of ending things could already sway some people into preferring Tim Duncan as the cornerstone player for a franchise. Both of these players competed at a high level, so the fact that one player was “quiet” while the other one more flamboyant shouldn’t matter in anyone’s grading system. (Advantage: N/A)
Since the two players played different positions, it is tough to break down their basketball games head-to-head. Kobe Bryant was the dominant shooting guard in the mold of Michael Jordan. Tim Duncan was called the “Big Fundamental”, and he displayed those skills in the post. Acrobatic Kobe versus Tim Duncan’s reliable bank shot. Advertising dollars may declare Kobe the winner, but as long as the ball goes in the hoop, the delivery doesn’t matter. Neither of the two players were particularly devastating from beyond the three-point arc. As one would expect, Kobe obviously scored more points, and Tim Duncan grabbed more rebounds. Both players made several NBA All-Defense teams. Tim Duncan held a 2-1 edge in MVP Awards, but the bottom line is that they both were transcendent players who not only contributed to multiple championship teams, but the major reason for the success of those teams. (Advantage: Even)
Perhaps, people feel shortchanged regarding the above comparison of the ball skills between Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant. Feel free to look up all of the available statistics, even the advanced offerings, but just know that all of the numbers will come to the same conclusion: both players were MVP quality with multiple championship rings. One was one of the best power forwards, ever. The other was one of the best shooting guards, ever.
Is there nothing left but to declare personal preference or team need as the final selection criteria? Well, sort of… How about instead of team need, the opponent is used as the final criteria?
What if Michael Jordan’s Bulls were the opponent?
Kobe Bryant would come the closest to anyone matching Jordan’s overall skill and intensity. Michael Jordan intimidated every shooting guard in the league during his years of dominance, but he wouldn’t easily intimidate Kobe.
For the teams with no super-dominant player relying on “Hero Ball”, Tim Duncan’s style of play, featuring rim protection, rebounding, and low post scoring would prove more useful as he could influence more aspects of the game.
I’ve got Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant as franchise players. Both of them have shown the ability to win championships; however, given a choice based on opposing teams, I prefer Kobe versus isolation dominant teams, and Tim Duncan against “sum of the parts” teams.
How about you?