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Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan Head-To-Head Record: Kobe Won More Games, But MJ Had Better Stats

Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan Head-To-Head Record: Kobe Won More Games, But MJ Had Better Stats

Fans in the NBA were spoiled for about three decades. When Michael Jordan came into the league in 1984, he blossomed into the greatest basketball player in the world. That included 10 scoring titles and six Finals MVPs with a long resume of other accomplishments. As for Kobe Bryant, he was the closest representation of Jordan in the 2000s, which included one three-peat plus an additional two titles to make five championships.

If we could go back in a time machine to see each player play during their primes, that would be the best one on one game we have ever seen. Instead, we were lucky enough to see their two teams play against each other eight times before Jordan retired in 2003. It’s still better than never seeing the two players play against each other at all.

You can tell as the years go on that Bryant learned from Jordan how to be a dominant player. Bryant went from a rookie watching greatness to being the one putting the greatness on display. These are the eight head-to-head matchups that Bryant and Jordan played against each other.

December 17, 1996 - Lakers vs. Bulls 123-129 OT

Kobe Bryant: 5 PTS, 1 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 1 BLK, 0 TO, 2-5 FG (40.0%), 0-2 3PT, 1-2 FT (50.0%)

Michael Jordan: 30 PTS, 3 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 2 BLK, 2 TO, 10-13 FG (76.9%), 0-2 3PT, 10-14 (71.4%)

In the very first meeting, Bryant was a rookie and Jordan was fresh off his fourth championship in the league. Jordan was in top NBA shape after taking time off, while Bryant was just getting his footing in the league. Bryant grew up watching Jordan and trying to emulate his game. This had to be a nervous meeting for Bryant, who was drafted directly out of high school.

Bryant didn’t give a first impression individually as he scored just five points. Meanwhile, Jordan let everyone know that he was still the best in the league with 30 points. Bryant only played in nine minutes and came off the bench, so cut the kid some slack.

February 5, 1997 - Lakers vs. Bulls 106-90

Kobe Bryant: 7 PTS, 3 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 2-7 FG (28.6%), 1-2 3PT (50.0%), 0-0 FT

Michael Jordan: 27 PTS, 4 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 10-24 FG (41.7%), 2-5 3PT (40.0%), 5-6 FT (83.3%)

In the second meeting, Bryant’s point total rose to seven points, but he remained in the same place as the first time. Bryant was still getting used to the league and was growing. Jordan was an MVP candidate leading the Bulls to a top record in the league. You have to wonder how much Bryant was studying while watching him from the sidelines.

Jordan displayed another top game with 27 points with most of his work coming from shooting. Despite Jordan’s solid game, the Lakers dominate the Bulls as a team by defeating them by 16 points. After one year of getting outplayed by Jordan, Bryant began to find his groove.

December 17, 1997 - Lakers vs. Bulls 83-104

Kobe Bryant: 33 PTS, 3 RED, 2 AST, 0 STL, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 12-20 FG (60.0%), 3-5 3PT (60.0%), 6-9 FT (66.7%)

Michael Jordan: 36 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 4 TO, 12-22 FG (54.5%), 1-2 3PT (50.0%), 11-12 FT (91.7%)

By his second year in the league, Bryant was growing into a very good basketball player. Bryant showed that he was able to put the work into an offseason and nearly outscored Jordan in their third ever meeting. Bryant led the Lakers with 33 points, but it was not enough as the Bulls routed the Lakers pretty badly.

Jordan had his best overall scoring game against Bryant in the head-to-head matchups with 36 points. That included a near-perfect showing at the free-throw line. Bryant was red hot from the field, shooting 60% from the field, but in the end, Jordan came out on top one of the few last times.

February 1, 1998 - Lakers vs. Bulls 112-87

Kobe Bryant: 20 PTS, 4 REB, 1 AST, 2 STL, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 7-16 FG (43.7%), 2-6 3PT (33.3%), 4-7 (57.1%)

Michael Jordan: 31 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 11-16 FG (68.7%), 0-1 3PT, 9-12 FT (75.0%)

Despite the Bulls being the best team on the floor, the Lakers nearly beat the Bulls by 30 points. Jordan gave a stellar shooting performance, but the Lakers shot the lights out from the field. Bryant gave the Lakers 20 points, while nearly shooting 50% from the field.

This would be one of the last times we would see Jordan play in his prime. After the Bulls won their third straight championship to cap off the three-peat, Jordan retired from basketball and didn’t return for three years. By then, Bryant developed into a top player in the league with Shaquille O’Neal and the Lakers took over as the league’s best team.

February 12, 2002 - Lakers vs. Wizards 103-94

Kobe Bryant: 23 PTS, 11 REB, 15 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 9-20 FG (45.0%), 0-1 3PT, 5-9 FT (55.6%)

Michael Jordan: 22 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK, 4 TO, 8-20 FG (40.0%), 0-0 3PT, 6-8 FT (75.0%)

In Jordan’s first season back, Jordan was 38 years old. He could still score at least 20 points on any given night, but he was not the same player he once was. Bryant was the closest version to Jordan that the public eye could see since Jordan left the league. Bryant was coming off two seasons that saw the Lakers win two championships with the team in a position to win a third.

Bryant produced the only triple-double between both players in the head to head. Bryant scored just one more point than Jordan, but he added 15 assists and 11 rebounds. This was a hard-fought battle between both teams with the Lakers pulling away in the end.

April 2, 2002 - Lakers vs. Wizards 113-93

Kobe Bryant: 14 PTS, 2 RED, 6 AST, 1 STL, 0 BLK, 4 TO, 6-13 FG (46.2%), 0-0 3PT, 2-2 FT (100%)

Michael Jordan: 2 PTS, 3 REB, 3 AST, 0 STL, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 1-5 FG (20.0%), 0-0 3PT, 0-0 FT

This was Jordan’s worst performance against Bryant, but also one of his worst games ever in the NBA. Jordan played a career-low 12 minutes and he was not injured. The staff elected to play other players, while Bryant had a fairly off game from his perspective. In the end, it didn’t matter as the Lakers won by 20 points.

This was an outlier of greatness for both sides. Bryant only shot the ball 13 times, while Jordan made 20% of his shots. Only two free throws combined from both players was a surprise too. Everyone has a bad game now and then, even to the greatest players of all time.

November 8, 2002 - Lakers vs. Wizards 99-100

Kobe Bryant: 27 PTS, 6 REB, 4 AST, 0 STL, 2 BLK, 2 TO, 8-21 FG (38.1%), 0-0 3PT, 11-11 (100%)

Michael Jordan: 25 PTS, 3 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, 0 BLK, 2 TO, 9-14 FG (64.3%), 0-0 3PT, 7-12 FT (58.3%)

When the two teams met the following season, it was a blast from the past. Jordan was highly efficient by hitting 64% of his shots from the field. His free throw shooting was a bit off, but he still managed to score 25 points in his 39-year old season. Jordan nearly lost the game for the Wizards in the end, but the team was able to get over his mistakes. Jerry Stackhouse’s one-handed jam was the go-ahead field goal to give the team the win.

Despite Jordan finishing with fewer points, rebounds, and assists, he outplayed Bryant to an extent. He took smarter shots, while Bryant was 8 of 21 from the field. With that said, there’s an argument that Bryant had the better game as he was a perfect 11 for 11 from the free-throw line, while Jordan was 7 of 12. This would be Jordan’s final win over Bryant as the two would meet just one more time.

March 28, 2003 - 108-94

Kobe Bryant: 55 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST, 3 STL, 0 BLK, 3 TO, 15-29 FG (51.7%), 9-13 3PT (69.2%), 16-18, FT (88.9%)

Michael Jordan: 23 PTS, 0 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 10-20 FG (50.0%0, 0-0 3PT, 3-4 FT (75.0%)

The final game of the all-time series felt like a passing of the torch. Jordan put out 23 points and made 50% of his shots. However, the Lakers were just too good and the Wizards were hanging onto Jordan’s earlier years. The Lakers blew out the Wizards thanks to an amazing game from Bryant.

Bryant produced the most points between either Jordan or himself. Bryant made 15 of 29 shots to score 55 points, which included making 9 of 13 shots from three-point range. His 69% shooting from beyond the arc, combined with his 16 of 18 shooting at the free-throw line, was a masterful performance. The league knew that Jordan was leaving and Bryant must have wanted to impress his mentor one last time.

Career Head To Head

Credit: NBA

Credit: NBA

Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan 5-3 (Wins-Loss)

Kobe Bryant: 22.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.6 BPG

Michael Jordan: 24.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.5 BPG

These are two of the best shooting guards of all time, period. If you look deep at the stats, these two nearly put up the same exact game when they played each other. When analysts compare Bryant to Jordan, it was because these two had such a similar game to go along with their win-at-all-costs attitude. 

It’s just unfortunate that we didn’t get to see Jordan and Bryant play when they were both in their primes. Jordan’s early victories came when Bryant was just two years into the league, while Bryant’s prime seasons came when Jordan was out of the league for three years. Had Jordan not retired in 1998 and played from 1999 to 2001, you can bet those would have been some amazing games. The rivalry and respect would have been amplified to an even greater extent and who knows what kind of stat lines we would have seen.


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