Former 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers free agent center Dwight Howard had a deep and wide-ranging conversation with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes for their Showtime series All The Smoke recently.
Howard would know. He has played with several of the greatest players of all time throughout his 18-year career: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, James Harden on two different teams, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony and, if you Stay healthy, Joel Embiid. The eight-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year never met Michael Jordan on the court, but in his opinion, the most skilled NBA player in history was not the Chicago Bulls legend, but one of them. Howard’s many colleagues.
It was a Laker, yes, but maybe not the one you’d expect.
“Kobe is the most skilled of all the players [ever]… Everything [Michael] Jordan did it, I feel like he just multiplied… And people [are] mad at him for doing it… he did everything [Jordan] he did and he did better. Even watching him in practice, some things that he was doing, I thought, ‘Why is he doing it?’ One day I saw him stretching his fingers, I just saw the lady doing this for a whole hour, I guess she was [for] when he fired his jump shot, to be [smoother].”
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Bryant indicated, once his playing career was behind him, that he had deliberately copied most of his on-court actions from MJ. In terms of efficiency, Jordan still outperforms Bryant in overall field goal percentage by a significant margin (49.7% vs. 44.7%). Neither man was a particularly good 3-point shooter, although hitting from deep was more important during the Bryant era than it was during the MJ era. Bryant proved to be a slightly better shooter from deep as he connected on 32.9% of his 4.1 attempts compared to Jordan’s 32.7% completion rate on just 1.7 shots. Bryant played a little longer and his performance dropped significantly after his Achilles tear in 2013, so some of the percentages would have been closer presumably if he had been able to stay healthier.
Howard also offered some interesting differences between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, the latter of which this writer hoped Dwight would mention as the most skilled player of all time on Bryant. Though perhaps Howard thinks LBJ has more raw talent, while in his opinion Bryant developed more of his footwork and shooting ability.
“They’re two different people. I always felt like Kobe was like Batman and LeBron like Captain America, really. LeBron always, he wants everyone to be around, saying he wants to have fun, he wants to dance before games and put on his music. Kobe just he’s locked up. He doesn’t say anything. He grabbed the basketball and dribbled the heavy ball before the game.”
Here the full conversation: