What do you mean Mr. Hadarii Jones?
Bleacher Report’s most respected NBA Featured Columnist and certainly one of my favorite writers, recently came out with an article with a highly debatable claim as reflected by his comment:
“Wade is younger and clearly the superior athlete at this point in his and Bryant's careers, but the perception that Wade has passed Bryant as a player is not supported by their numbers during the 2010-11 season.”
While I agree with Mr. Jones and his exceptionally compelling views 99 percent of the time, he does after all, exhibit a very sound knowledge of the game—this was one of those one percent times that alarm bells began to ring.
And I will respond to this statement with the kind of exclamation point that it demands:
This season, without a doubt, Kobe Bryant has relinquished his shooting guard throne to Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat.
Whether that statement also holds true over the last couple of seasons is debatable, especially since history records Bryant as a two-time champion over that period—but after this season, that highly-charged debate is dead in the water.
Here are three overwhelming reasons why:
First of all, Mr. Jones points to the two superstars’ 2010-11 NBA season statistics as too close to call and as the leading indicator in Bryant’s favor.
And for the most part, while looking at the surface only, that’s quite true. Wade averaged barely more PPG (25.5 to 25.3) and RPG (6.4 to 5.1). Bryant averaged barely more APG (4.7 to 4.6).
But Wade beats Kobe handily in field goal shooting percentage (50 percent to 45 percent), a significant difference over games where the final outcomes are often decided by a mere two points or less.
Moreover, Wade has been far more efficient on the hardwood than Bryant. NBA.com’s efficiency formula is recognized and utilized by NBA coaches (unlike PER), and these numbers have Wade as the seventh-most efficient player in the league—Kobe is ranked 19th.
With regards to their efficiency in the playoffs, Wade is ranked eighth and Kobe is 32nd—a huge reason why the Lakers are out of it and the Heat are still in it.
Some might argue that stats aren’t everything, but they certainly are a huge part of the argument. You most definitely cannot say that stats are nothing.
This argument leans much more heavily in Wade’s favor, however, when you consider the fact that Kobe was the L.A. Lakers' No. 1 option and had absolute free reign of the Purple and Gold’s offense. Wade, on the other hand, had to share ball duties with LeBron James—the best player in the game.
Only after considering this fact, do Wade’s and Kobe’s closely knit statistics not seem all that close.
Secondly, and as Mr. Jones also recognizes in his article, Wade is the superior athlete at this point in their careers. We’re not talking about amazing MVP Bryant here, but the 2010-11 version that has an irreversible bone-on-bone knee condition that affects his ability to practice.
The Black Mamba is simply not the same player he used to be.
The mileage that Kobe’s legs have logged are far more than the average NBA 32-year-old—a result of 15 long and stellar marathon years in the NBA.
And like every emperor of ever dynasty, human mortality eventually becomes the Achilles heel of every great athlete—whether we’re talking about Mohammad Ali, Joe Montana, Lou Gehrig, Mario Lemieux or even Michael Jordan.
You can’t wage war against Father Time, because we are certainly not immortal and before we return to the dust where we all came from, there is an aging process that starts when we first realize that we’ve lost a step.
And Kobe Bryant has definitely lost that step as well as all the cartilage in his left knee.
Kobe Bryant has admirably transformed his game to more of a perimeter player—an adaptation that has been much kinder to his aging, aching body.
Dwyane Wade, on the other hand, is as explosive as ever and can blow by opponents with the best of them.
And he consistently breaks the ankles of his foes in the process, game in and game out.
Wade has also shown that he is one of the best defenders in the league, as reflected by his contributions to Miami’s extremely stingy defensive game.
Simply said, Wade and the Heat have taken their defensive games far more seriously than Kobe and the Lakers, whom by contrast, seemed to care less.
Lastly, the third and most convincing reason why Wade has surpassed Bryant this year at shooting guard comes from a GM’s perspective.
After this season is all said and done, and the postseason gets ready to kickoff the NBA finals between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks, who would you pick if you were a GM and you had a choice between Wade or Kobe?
And as GM, you also have to consider that Bryant makes $10 million more per season than Wade, with an annual salary that will reach $30 million year after next.
The answer should be unanimously, Dwyane Wade, mostly because Bryant’s game has declined and Wade is still in his prime.
You simply cannot deny the amazing career of Kobe Bryant—he will undoubtedly finish as one of the top 10 greatest players of all-time.
But you can deny the fact that he is currently the best shooting guard in the league, because that title now belongs to Dwyane Wade.