Kobe Bryant v Tim Duncan: Which retired superstar enjoyed the better career?

Published Add your comment

Football News

Two different positions, different markets, different personalities and extremely different goodbyes, but two players whose retirements have left gaping holes in the NBA.

19-year veteran Tim Duncan has followed in the footsteps of 20-year L.A. Lakers legend Kobe Bryant by calling time on his career in 2016. The two players defined a generation as they battled for supremacy in the Western Conference and claimed a combined total of 10 championship rings.

With a new era upon us, GiveMeSport looks back at the incredible careers of the two surefire Hall of Fame inductees and tries to decipher who leaves the best legacy.


As mentioned above, both players ended their careers with five titles apiece and thwarted the other on a number of occasions. The Lakers sent the Spurs packing in the Western Conference Finals of 2001 and '08 - going on to claim the ultimate prize in the first instance - and the Semi-Finals in '02 and '04, claiming the third title of their threepeat two years after the turn of the millennium.

San Antonio overcame the Purple and Gold in 1999 - claiming their first NBA title that year - and 2003, the season of their second championship success. They also swept Los Angeles in 2013, the last time the Lakers made the playoffs, as they claimed their fifth crown - although Bryant played no part.

When it comes to personal accolades, the list is incredible; three Finals MVP awards, two Most Valuable Player titles, 15 selections to the All-Star Game, ten nods for the All-NBA First Team - 15 across all three teams - eight All-Defensive First Team honours - 13 overall - and the 1998 Rookie of Year make Duncan the best power forward to grace the hardwood. And that's not to mention his many titles outside of the NBA and his standing as the Spurs' all-time leading scorer.

Two NBA Finals MVP honours, the 2008 Most Valuable Player, 18 All-Star votes, 11 All-NBA First Team picks - 15 in total - nine years in the All-Defensive First Team - 12 in all teams - and two scoring championships are in Bryant's trophy cabinet. He is also the Lakers' all-time scorer.


There is no disputing that Duncan was able to prolong his stay at the top of the league longer than Kobe. Injuries took their toll on the shooting guard, and while his retirement came in 2016, his final hoorah was the regular season of 2012/13.

That same year, Duncan was a huge influence on the Spurs as they fell in seven to the Miami Heat in the Finals, before enacting their revenge a year later. But it was clear to see father time had finally caught up with him this season as his averages and minutes on the court plummeted.

Throughout his career, 'Big Fundamental' averaged 19 points - shooting a 50.7 effective field goal percentage, 10.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks while ending his playing days with a Player Efficiency Rating of 24.2 and a Value Over Replacement Player of 89.3.

By far his strongest year for the franchise came in 2001-02 when he scooped his first MVP award with 25.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game with a VORP of 8.1 and a PER of 27.

For Bryant, his career points average is up at 25 - shooting a 48.2 percent effective field goal rate - while providing 4.7 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals. Kobe may have been MVP in 2008 but statistically, his best season was in 2002-03 where he scored on average 30 points, had 6.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.2 blocks with a VORP of 7.1 and a PER of 26.2.

It may seem, on paper, that Duncan was the more efficient and came away with more personal accolades, however, there is one aspect we are yet to explore.


The statistics point towards the San Antonio man enjoying the better career - although it is all relative. Of course, the forward will go up there alongside Shaquille O'Neal and Wilt Chamberlain as one of the best frontcourt players to ever play the game, but there is a reason the Black Mamba is spoken of in the same breath as Michael Jordan.

There was no doubting Duncan could impact a game in an instance with his efficient play, but when Kobe got that fire in his eyes, you knew something special was about to take place. Just look at his 81 points vs. Toronto, 65 vs. the Blazers, 62 against the Mavericks and 61 against New York. Need I go on?

Both players were incredible talents but Bryant had that explosive edge that put him on a different stratosphere altogether. You never knew when he was going to take off. Duncan was spectacularly consistent in everything he did, Kobe was spectacularly unpredictable.

To define who had the best career is nearly impossible, they played for two completely different teams, in completely different positions with wildly varying personalities, but they were both extraordinary talents in their own special ways and we may never see the likes of them again.

But to go out on a whim, Kobe just edges it for me.

San Antonio Spurs
Southwest Division
Western Conference
Tim Duncan
L.A. Lakers
Pacific Division
Kobe Bryant

Article Comments

Read more

Report author of article

Please let us know if you believe this article is in violation of our editorial policy, please only report articles for one of the following reasons.

Report author


This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

Want more content like this?

Like our GiveMeSport Facebook Page and you will get this directly to you.

Already Subscribed to Facebook, don't ask me again

Follow GiveMeSport on Twitter and you will get this directly to you.

Already Following, don't ask me again

Like our GiveMeSport - NBA Page and you will get this directly to you.

Already Subscribed to G+, don't ask me again