Kobe needed Shaq, LeBron is better than him, and he’ll never be Michael Jordan are just a few of the many ridiculous criticisms that Laker fans have had to endure during the legendary Kobe Bryant career. One of the biggest and incorrect critiques of Kobe’s game is that he is a ball hog. So much so that people have created pretty funny memes about it.
Most of Kobe’s “ball hogging” accusations occurred when he was playing with guys like Smush Parker, while Lamar Odom was literally the only other scoring option. Would you pass it to Smush Parker if you were Kobe? The accusations started to get under Kobe’s skin so much that he only took 3 shots in the second half of game 7 vs. the Suns in 2006. Many people believed that this was just a result of him showing the critics that he needed to take shots in order for the Lakers to win.
The accusations are wrong. Let’s start out with the fact that he is a shooting guard. I hate to get all James Naismith on everyone, but I feel like I have to give a little bit of a basketball lesson. I’ll keep it short and sweet; the main objective of a shooting guard is to score points for his team. It’s not expected from a shooting guard to dish the ball out to other players. Because of this, it’s extremely rare that you’ll see any shooting guard in NBA history with eye-popping assists totals. Jerry West maybe?
Were these same people calling Michael Jordan a ball hog? For MJ’s career, he averaged 5.3 assists in the regular season and 5.7 in the playoffs. Kobe Bryant is currently averaging 4.2 in the regular season and 4.7 in his playoff career. We’re talking about a matter of decimal points and it must be considered that Kobe didn’t even receive much playing time until the start of the historic 3-peat, so his assists totals are obviously affected.
Speaking of that 3-peat, where “Kobe needed Shaq” and “Kobe was a ball hog,” Bryant led that same Laker team in the assist category each year of the three straight championships. Whether it be drawing the defense to himself and throwing up an easy alley-oop to Shaq or kicking it out to the three point shooters, a very young Kobe Bryant made play after play in this historic playoff run.
One play that will never be forgotten happened during a clutch moment in game 7 of the Western Conference Finals vs. the Portland Trail Blazers in 2000. He had 7 assists during this game and the last one was the best of them all. Leading the Trail Blazers by 4 points, Kobe crossed up Scottie Pippen and drove down the lane. At this point, he could have taken a shot like a ball hog would, but he chose to throw up an alley-oop to Shaq that will always be remembered as one of the great passes in Laker history.
In recent years, we have heard the term “facilitator” over and over again. Kobe has been playing this role for the first half of many games for the last couple of years. He works tirelessly on getting his team involved until he feels like he absolutely has to score.
In the 2009 NBA Finals vs. the Orlando Magic, Kobe Bryant averaged 7.4 assist and became the first player since Jerry West to average at least 32.4 points and 7.4 assists for a finals series. Ball hog? I don’t think so.
In the 2010 Western Conference Finals vs. the Phoenix Suns, Kobe recorded 13 assists in game 2. Magic Johnson was the last Laker to record at least 13 assists in an NBA playoff game up until that point.
Kobe’s shooting performance in game 7 vs. the Celtics in 2010 has been widely recognized by his critics, but he fought through it, continued to attack, and trust his teammates by feeding them the ball. Metta World Peace can definitely attest to that.
These are just some of the many examples that prove that the “ball hog” label is incorrect. Kobe Bryant is an absolute assassin. When I watch Laker games, I don’t see a ball hog. I see someone who is willing to do anything to achieve greatness, whether it be scoring himself or trusting his teammates. There is a big difference between passing the ball to an open guy because he’s open and passing the ball to someone else because you’re afraid of the moment. He has done it time and time again since the start of his career and 5 championships have come out of it.