Opinion: Don’t compare players from different generations


By Luke Jenkins

Recently, there have been talks of whether or not the Lakers should trade Kobe Bryant.  Bryant is now 36 and playing in his 18th NBA season.  To a lot of people that sounds blasphemous.  Kobe is and always will be a Laker.  But will he and should he?

Kobe Bryant is arguably one of the best to ever play the game.  He doesn’t make my personal starting five of all time, but he is one of the best players in the NBA ever.  When you get that distinction, you will always be compared to the other greats. The person everyone wants to compare him to is the greatest of them all, Michael Jordan.

Yet why should we compare the two?  Kobe was a rookie at the end of MJ’s prime when we he accomplished his second three-peat. Jordan retired and then came back (again) to play with the Wizards, which is a stint most of us try to forget.  Then, it was Kobe’s time.  He won three titles from 2000 to 2002, would win two more later in his career and fall one game short of having two three-peats.  Because of that, people will say Kobe wasn’t as good as Jordan; he couldn’t get that final ring.

I say, “What is the point?”

Kobe Bryant played for most of his prime in the first decade of the 2000s, Jordan did his in the 1990s.  The game is different and has changed.  Comparing current players to former players is one of the most ridiculous past-time sports journalists and sports fans have.

I understand that it is something to talk about and something to have fun arguing about, but it is pointless. Take baseball for example.

Miguel Cabrera is one of the best hitters in the game today.  Two years ago, he was the first player to achieve the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.  Now, people want to argue who is the better slugger between Miggy and The Babe.  Well here are a few stats for you.

In the year of his Triple Crown, the Detroit Tigers had an average attendance of 37,600.  Miggy also made $20 million that year.  Babe Ruth, in the year in which he hit 60 home runs (the most in one season of his career), was playing in front of a home crowd that was an average size of 13,700 people.  That’s well under half as many people.  Not only that, but he was being payed $50,000, an equivalent of $672,000 currently

It’s just not possible to compare the two players because the times in which they played are so vastly different.  You can’t compare the two.

Lets bring the discussion home to Ole Miss and back to the topic of basketball.  Last year’s lone senior on the men’s basketball team was Marshall Henderson.  The free-shooting, wild, electric shooting guard captured the hearts and imagination of the Ole Miss fan base because of his ability to shoot three-point field goals.  He rose quickly through the records for points and made fields goals (and probably missed ones too) in his two years here. He helped the program to its first conference tournament title since 1981 and NCAA tournament appearance since 2002.

Amid all of this, he occasionally was compared to former LSU great “Pistol Pete” Maravich.  Maravich is one of the greatest shooters of all time at the college level and has the most points in the collegiate level with 3,667.  He did all of that, without a three-point arc.  If he wanted three points on a play, he had to get fouled while shooting and then make both the basket and the free-throw.

The two just aren’t comparable.  The game has changed; players are bigger, faster and stronger; and there are different rules. Traveling is almost never called now.  To get an offensive penalty you almost have to shoot someone (or not have the names Kansas, Florida, Kentucky, or UConn written across the front), and point guards aren’t held to the same standards of dribbling as they used to be.  The league in which Maravich played is now gone.

If you want to compare players, go right ahead, but do it the right way.  Compare players to their contemporaries, not anyone else.  Compare Kobe to Shaquille O’Neil, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Allen Iverson.

Compare Miggy to Chris Davis, Mike Trout, and Giancarlo Stanton.

If you want to compare Babe Ruth to someone, compare him to the rest of the “Murderers Row” line-up with Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri.

Compare Michael Jordan to Hakeem Olajuwon and Karl Malone. Please, just don’t make the mistake of comparing different generations of players.

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