Who's better: Durant or Bryant?

Comparing two of the NBA's elite players across seven categories

Originally Published: April 22, 2012
By Chris Palmer | ESPN the Magazine
Kobe Bryant and Kevin DurantIcon Sports MediaKobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are two of the best players in the game. But who is better?

Kevin Durant and LeBron James are currently locked in an epic struggle for the 2012 MVP, so a comparison featuring the two would make perfect sense, right? Let's not kid ourselves, James is the best the game has to offer. With Durant's meteoric rise and Kobe Bryant still playing at a high level, the two Western Conference wings are more closely matched. At some point the torch will be passed from Kobe to Durant. But how soon?

Let's get this point out of the way early: Kobe has five rings, Durant zero. But we're not comparing the greatness of their careers. This is about who is a better player right now.

Here is a breakdown analyzing just that question across seven categories.

Shooting

Shooting the ball -- particularly the midrange pull-up and turnaround jumper -- has been the staple of Bryant's offensive attack for much of his 16-year career. Though his percentages have dipped in most areas he's still one of the very best at it. A third of Kobe's field goal attempts are long 2s, which come mostly when Bryant is in isolation on the wing or the top of the key where defenders can get little help. Few players use the pump fake away from the basket to free up their jumper better than Kobe. But as is Kobe's way, he still has a tendency to force a lot of bad shots when defenses collapse. Right now his .428 field goal percentage is the second worst of his career.

Chris Palmer

ESPN the Magazine