Throughout much of their respective careers, former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and San Antonio Spurs big man Tim Duncan has had their time in the league compared to each other. That has created a deal of debate concerning which had a better NBA career. That has once again become the topic of conversation with the two being unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famers for the 2020 class. With that in mind, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has weighed in the conversation favoring Duncan’s career over Bryant.
Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan’s careers
Despite being picked one year apart in the NBA Draft, Bryant and Duncan’s careers intertwined in the lense of success that each experienced throughout their career.
Bryant entered the league as a highly-touted high school player that had plenty of potential. It took a little time before he found his footing that saw him take off into stardom. Early in the process, he drew plenty of comparisons to Michael Jordan with his playing style.
Bryant has numerous personal accolades, such as being an 18-time All-Star, a five-time NBA champion, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, an 11-time All-NBA First Team selection, nine-time All-Defensive First-Team member, and three-time All-Defensive Second Team selection, among others. He also holds many Lakers’ all-time record while placing himself third on the all-time regular-season scoring list and fourth on the all-time postseason scoring list.
Meanwhile, Duncan took off from get-go as the first overall pick in the 1997 draft, which, over time, earned him strong recognition as being arguably the greatest power forward in NBA history. Duncan had numerous accolades to his name such as being a five-time NBA champion, three-time Finals MVP, two regular-season MVP awards, 15 All-Star selection, 10 All-NBA First Team nods, three All-NBA Second Team selections, two All-NBA Third Team nods, eight NBA All-Defensive First Team selections, and seven All-NBA Second Team nominations.
These two players accomplished it all and more than deserved the first-ballot Hall of Fame induction. However, the debate between their respective careers has seen Smith weigh in.
Stephen A. Smith sides with Tim Duncan
Although Bryant and Duncan played different positions, it’s one of the common topics of discussion to comparing their respective career.
That once again made it a prominent conversation with the two set to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the 2020 class. With that in mind, Stephen A. Smith has voiced that he believes Duncan holds the edge over Bryant in terms of their career success.
“I have to say Tim Duncan, with all due respect to my man Kobe Bryant, when you consider the model of consistency that Tim Duncan was able to put forth — David Robinson has a title because of Tim Duncan. Tim Duncan is a five-time champion, as that chart just showed, just as many titles as Kobe Bryant, more NBA Finals MVPs. You’ve got to take that into consideration the fact that he is universally recognized as the greatest power forward to have ever played the game, a 10-time All-Defensive First Team player.
You consider the level of consistency that he had. You can give Kobe Bryant for overcoming adversity, but Tim Duncan for avoiding adversity because he went out and played the game and played it at a championship level and was an absolute model of consistency.
That isn’t to slight Bryant by any means in Smith’s eyes, but more so based on Duncan being able to lead the Spurs to consistent success through his career with a trip to the playoffs in each campaign with at least 50 wins in all 18 years.
Meanwhile, Bryant had his struggles with a stretch after Shaquille O’Neal’s departure, where the Lakers stumbled despite him being at the top of his game. It also included missing the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. With all that put on the table, Smith’s argument has a strong case.
Who had the better career?
It’s a debate that will always have people weighing in supporting both sides of the spectrum.
Duncan put together an incredibly successful career where he was a huge reason for the Spurs’ dominance through much of that time. Meanwhile, Bryant had his struggles at times but throughout much of it he was at the top of his game proving to be only of the greatest players but scorers of all-time.
There is a strong argument on both sides, but beyond that it speaks to the tremendous talent that each had that made them Hall of Famers.