In our ongoing "Steve Nash versus Kobe Bryant" debate, mustachioed wonder David Friedman
posed the following question: "If Nash's points/assists combos are more impressive than Kobe's scoring explosions, how come Kobe's scoring explosions are much more rare in NBA history?"
An excellent question, which requires an even more excellent answer. A special thanks goes out to reader scoots
who -- despite being a mildly embittered Mavericks fan* -- directed me to Steve Nash's NBA.com bio page
, which lists the little canuck's most historically significant accomplishments. The best of his best include:1.
During the 2006 playoffs, Nash became just the third player (behind Magic Johnson and John Stockton) to post double figures in assists in seven consecutive playoff games (May 12-26, 2006).2.
During the 2004-05 regular season, he became the only player in NBA history to record double figures in assists in 11 consecutive victories.3.
During the 2004-05 playoffs, he joined Wilt Chamberliain and Michael Jordan as the only players to score 40-plus points in one playoff game and then collect a triple double in the next game.4.
During the 2004-05 playoffs, he became the first (and still only) player in NBA history to record four consecutive games with at least 25 points and 10 assists in the postseason.
So there you have it. Nash can
boast accomplishments that are, indeed, as rare as Kobe's recent scoring outbursts. And, most notably, three of the four I've listed were accomplished in the playoffs, versus the best competition. As opposed to, say, lottery teams. Which leads me to the second part of this post.
Whenever I present arguments in favor of Steve Nash, I usually get bombarded by "but" statements. BUT he's a bad defender. BUT he has talented teammates. BUT he's never won a title. BUT his hair is silly. And while these points have varying degrees of validity, they certainly do
prove one thing: every player, and every accomplishment, comes with an asterisk. This has been true ever since Wilt Chamberlain dropped 100 on the Knicks (he was playing against undersized centers, it was a blowout, his teammates were fouling to get the ball back) and the Celtics won 11 out of 13 championships (they had the best players, the best coach, and leprechauns). And, in that spirit, Kobe's recent 5-game scoring streak also has a few "buts":1.
Kobe's recent scoring binge has come against five lottery-bound teams with a combined record of 141-209. For those of you who like math, that's a .403 winning percentage. The "best" team in that bunch is the Golden State Warriors, who are ninth in the West and have a slim chance of making the playoffs (but won't). But their 33-38 record is kind of deceiving, since they're 25-10 at home and an abysmal 8-28 on the road. Hey, guess where they were playing when Kobe dropped 43 points on them? Yep: in L.A.2.
The Lakers have won all five games during Kobe's scoring tear. Of course, they've done so by a combined total of 21 points (including a 4-point victory over the Portland Trailblazers in overtime). That's not to take anything
away from the victories; a win's a win, period. The point, rather, is that all the games were close
(two 2-point games, a 4-point game, a 6-point game, and a 7-point game). The fact that they were close means that Kobe had to stay in the game and continue shooting. There have been plenty of games throughout NBA history where a great player was hot and could have gone for 50 or 60. I know of several Larry Bird game where The Legend had 40+ by the third quarter, then sat out the fourth because it was a blowout. Same for Michael Jordan.3.
Over this 5-game stretch, Kobe has dished 11 assists and committed 15 turnovers (including 0 assists and 7 turnovers in Sunday's game against Golden State). That's a 0.7:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. That's...not good.
Kobe has been on fire, no doubt about it. His scoring has been extremely
impressive (historically so), and, most importantly, the Lakers have won the last five games. But let's put things in perspective. The man beat up on a handful of lottery teams with less-than-stellar defenses and little to play for (Golden State's outside shot of making the playoffs notwithstanding). He also had
to keep shooting in all five games because the Lakers couldn't pull away in any of them, despite his otherworldly scoring contributions. And that might be because he sacrificed getting his teammates involved because, well, he was too busy filling up the basket.
The thing is, I'm not saying any of this to take anything away from Bryant or his accomplishments. I may not like Kobe as a person, but I genuinely enjoy watching him play. I have repeatedly stated that he's the best scorer in the NBA, and one of the greatest in league history. I even think he's one of the best players in the game today. But I simply don't equate scoring with being The Best Player. That's why, if I was starting a team, I'd take a Magic Johnson over a Jordan, and I'd take a Nash over a Bryant, despite all the "buts" out there.
Now with that said, I admit to being a little tired of discuing Nash/Kobe. So I'll do my best to respond to any outstanding comments to this and past posts. However, going forward I intend to return to the fart and penis jokes that are my hallmark.
* Look, scoots, I feel your pain. It's always traumatizing when a player leaves your team and goes on to do great things. But honestly, Steve had to scale back his game when he played in Dallas. He was usually the second (behind Dirk Nowitzki) or third option (behind Dirk and Michael Finley). He simply filled his role and did what the coaching staff asked him to do. Which is remarkable, when you think about it. He never pouted or made bitter comments to the press about how he could be an MVP if he didn't have to defer to Dirk. He didn't demand a trade or try to get someone else traded. And when he was asked to be "The Man," he just flat out did it. But all that aside, you still have the Mavericks, who are the best team in the league and (in my mind) a lock to win the title this year (or as close to a lock as you can get in today's league).
Labels: defense, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, mustaches, Phoenix Suns, scoring, Steve Nash