You can’t be the best forever, and Kobe Bryant hasn’t been number one in the league or in his position for quite some time. In fact, Klay Thompson, as of right now, is a better shooting guard to have.
Obviously, when you take into account the two players’ body of work, there’s nothing to even argue about. Bryant will go down as one of the best players of all-time, with an MVP, scoring titles, two Finals MVP and being a leading player on five Lakers Championship team if not the best on at least two of them. Thompson, entering his fourth season in the NBA, isn’t likely to reach those individual heights.
But with so much mystery surrounding Bryant’s second return from a serious injury, one can’t keep giving him the benefit of the doubt. If you were a general manager right now, Thompson would be the obvious choice between the two. If you take into account the money each of them is making (Bryant costing $23.5 million, Thompson just $3 million), it’s an even easier choice.
At the heart of the comparison? Bill Duffy, who wants to get Klay Thompson a maximum contract from the Golden State Warriors, trying to raise the profile of his client, coming off a strong performance in the Basketball World Cup.
I don’t want Kobe Bryant to go crazy, but there’s some uncertainty as to who he is right now. But I think Klay Thompson right now is the top two-way, two-guard in basketball. I think when you look at his body of work, when you look at what he accomplished guarding point guards on a regular basis, I think it’s pretty clear.
Thompson averaged 18.4 points per game last season, while improving even more as a wing defender and carrying on with being one of the more reliable long range shooters in the league, hitting 41.7% of his shots. He’s more versatile than before, and seems well on his way to become one of the best in his position for many years to come, if he isn’t already. With one more season left on his rookie deal, the Warriors know they’re going to give him a massive extension.
Bryant is entering what might be the final two seasons in his incredible career. He played just six regular season games last season. He hasn’t been much of a defender for quite some time. Maybe he can still score around 25 points a night consistently without it taking too much out of him, but that’s highly doubtful. Everyone grows old, everyone gets surpassed at some point by younger players. Bryant is not impervious to those human flaws. Maybe this kind of slight will motivate him, but it won’t make the statement wrong.