Tim Duncan doesn’t need a sixth ring to be considered better than Kobe Bryant


(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The San Antonio Spurs dispatched the Miami Heat in historic fashion, leading many to believe Tim Duncan has a chance at winning his sixth NBA title. And not everyone is happy about it.

“If you ask me if I’m okay with Tim doing it, I’m not,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “I’m not okay with that.”

Kobe Bryant helped the Los Angeles Lakers win five championships – the three-peat from 2000 to 2002 with Shaquille O’Neal and back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. Duncan adding a sixth would cement the Spurs’ big man’s place in NBA history – one that could leave Bryant to be considered the second best player of his generation. However, even with five rings, Bryant is not in the same class as Duncan.

A quick look at the awards and honors won by each doesn’t provide much separation. Bryant and Duncan are in an almost dead heat for all-NBA first teams selections, all-defensive team honors and most other individual accolades.

But once we turn our attention to their regular season performance, we start to see why Bryant is not in the same class as Duncan.

Even if you include the extra year Bryant played in the NBA (Bryant was drafted in 1996, Duncan in 1997), the Spurs’ big man still comes out ahead in win shares, an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player.

The same holds true for career win shares amassed during the postseason.

And it turns out Bryant had more to work with during the Lakers’ championship runs than Duncan with the Spurs.

ESPN’s John Hollinger created a stat called “game score” which gives a rough measure of a player’s productivity for a single game by weighting various counting stats:

Game Score; the formula is PTS + 0.4 * FG - 0.7 * FGA - 0.4*(FTA - FT) + 0.7 * ORB + 0.3 * DRB + STL + 0.7 *AST + 0.7 * BLK - 0.4 * PF - TOV. The scale is similar to that of points scored, (40 is an outstanding performance, 10 is an average performance, etc.).

Using game scores, with the exception of San Anotio’s most recent run, we can see Bryant’s teammates put up a higher average of game scores than Duncan’s in each team’s championship seasons.

Duncan doesn’t need a sixth ring to show he is better than Bryant, winning his fifth sealed the deal.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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Neil Greenberg · June 17

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