Who Had a Better Career, Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant?
The two all time greats both had phenomenal careers, but we dive into which player actually had the better one.
For starters, here are Duncan and Bryant's career statistics:
Tim Duncan: Kobe Bryant:
Tim Duncan is better than Kobe and here is why:
If you take a quick glance at their accolades you will see that Kobe is an 18-time all-star compared to Duncan making it 15 times. However, Kobe's last one was more about a farewell tour than actual play, which is evidenced based off of his horrific 35% field goal shooting that season. Another advantage is that Bryant skipped college and Tim played all four years, so Kobe also had more prime years in the NBA.
Kobe had one MVP, made 12 all defense teams, 15 all NBA teams, and an all-rookie team. Tim had two MVP’s (back-to-back), is the only player in history to do the 15x3 (15x all-star, 15x all NBA, and 15x all defense), and won ROY (while having the arguably the best rookie season ever). In the accolade department, advantage Duncan.
Let’s take a look at championships. They both won five titles over their careers, with Kobe getting two Finals MVP's, and Duncan getting three. If you take a deeper dive however you will see something interesting. In four of the Spurs five title runs, Duncan was the top on the team in win shares, with the only exception being in 2014 when he was reaching the end of his career, and still finished second on the team in win shares. As described by basketballreference.com, win shares are "a player statistic which attempts to divvy up credit for team success to the individuals on the team." But in all five of Kobe’s championship runs he NEVER led his team in win shares (the 3-peat all were Shaquille O'Neal and the last 2 were Pau Gasol). In all of the seasons he led his team in win shares they never won it all. Advantage Duncan.
Moving on to consistency. Tim Duncan got to the Spurs (a team about to be relocated) and had 19 consecutive 50-win seasons! He led them in win shares for 12 of those seasons. A large reason for this was his lack of ego which allowed the Spurs to pay the necessary players to win. Kobe was a part of 9 50-win teams and only led in in shares for 3 of those seasons. From this we see that even though they both won a lot, Tim won more often and for a much longer period of time. Advantage once again to Duncan.
Now there are some things you can say against Tim Duncan. He played with prime David Robinson for a bit. He had great teammates in Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, along with good role players put around him by one of the greatest coaches in NBA history in Gregg Popovich. However, the great coach argument doesn’t work because Kobe also had a phenomenal coach in Phil Jackson. He also had great teammates in Shaq (who was a top 3 player at the time) and Pau.
You can definitely say Kobe was a better scorer than Tim Duncan (although he did shoot 45% for his career from the field which is atrocious), but in every other facet of the game Tim was superior. He was a better defender, teammate, and most importantly always made his teams better.