NBA Versus: The Hardware
As mentioned, both Bryant and Duncan were defensive monsters their whole careers, but Duncan edged out three more All-Defensive appearances. Both have five championships. Both were awarded 15 All-NBA honors. Kobe has 11 First Teams, 2 Second Teams, and 2 Third Teams. Duncan has 10 First Teams, 3 Second Teams, and 2 Third teams. And both, of course, are on the NBA 75th anniversary team.
Kobe also has two scoring titles and 18 All-Star appearances, compared to Duncan’s Rookie of the Year and 15 All-Stars. What about MVPs? Kobe has one regular season and two Finals MVPs. Duncan has 2 regular seasons and 3 from the Finals.
The slight edge goes to Duncan here with more MVP awards, but Kobe’s other awards do make it very close.
Influence and Culture
Touching once again on the different play styles these two had speaks even further about their overall influence. Whereas Kobe clearly had a bigger impact on pop culture and influence on the younger generation, Duncan is just as happy to have it that way, which speaks to his influence and his own approach to the game.
Bryant, by most accounts, was a bit of a control freak. He was an intense competitor, and not everyone could play alongside him. Yes, he wasn’t the number-one option in the first half of his career, but he wasn’t content with that.
Bryant was always someone who was going to compete; he was always going to leave 100% on the floor and was always going to demand that of his teammates. So much so, to the point where it became an obsession. His idol, Michael Jordan, was the same way, so why shouldn’t he?
Duncan, however, was on the other side of that same coin. Not to say he wasn’t competitive; he absolutely was, but it’s the way he engaged with the game that sits perpendicular to Bryant. If Kobe was militaristic and controlling, Duncan was paternal and deferential.
He was happy to work within the system that his coaches laid out; he didn’t insist on being the fulcrum of that system either. These two leadership styles couldn’t be more different, but as far apart as they seem, they both had nearly identical results when it all was broken down on paper, leaving the argument between these two ever closer.