We wrote about this when Kobe Bryant died in January 2020, but with the news today that former Los Angeles Lakers star Pau Gasol was retiring, we thought it was important to revisit: Gasol was a better player than Bryant was on the two NBA title teams that Kobe always gets credit for “leading” when that just was not the case.
Facts are facts: Gasol was the best player on the Lakers during both the 2009 and 2010 seasons when Los Angeles won the NBA title, period. On the 2009 team, Gasol posted 13.9 Win Shares, while Kobe earned just 12.7 Win Shares, and one year later, the gap was even bigger: Gasol came in at 11.0 WS, while Kobe didn’t even crack double digits (9.4).
So, why do people think Kobe was the engine that drove those teams? We have no idea, other than hype and idiocy. In 2009, for example, Gasol’s eFG percentage was 56.7 percent, while Kobe’s was just 50.2 percent. In fact, Gasol’s overall FG percentage was 56.7 to Kobe’s overall 46.7-percent effort. Gasol also notched more defensive Win Shares (4.2) than Kobe did (4.0).
As for 2010, we see similar disparity: Gasol’s eFG edge was again significant (53.6 percent to 48.8 percent), and the DWS margin was exactly the same (4.2 for Gasol to 4.0 for Bryant). Straight-up shooting percentage also favored Gasol by a large margin, 53.6 percent to 45.6 percent.
When you toss in Kobe’s propensity to turn the ball over (almost 1 more turnover per game than Gasol in the two seasons combined), and it’s clear Gasol was better than Kobe was when the Lakers won those two titles. But no one ever seems to want to give Gasol credit for that.
But we will, because facts are facts, and the numbers don’t lie: Bryant was an overhyped ball hog with crappy efficiency on offense that hurt his team more often than not. So just remember these facts and numbers when someone starts spouting off about how great Kobe Bryant was, and watch them look at you blankly without a thought to counter your data.