Although the two play different positions and never matchup mono-y-mono, the rivalry between Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant has been one of the premium rivalries for nearly the past 20 years.
Kobe Bryant entered the NBA straight out of high school in 1996, instantly joining the team he still plays for, the Los Angeles Lakers, after a draft day deal with the Charlotte Hornets. The shooting guard has dropped a current 31,700 points in his NBA career, good for first all-time for the Los Angeles Lakers, which is quite the impressive feat considering the legends the Lakers squads have seen over the years. Scoring 81 points in one game certainly aided his quest to get to that point quicker.
On top of that, Bryant has been selected for 16 All-Star Games, winning MVP in a quarter of those. His top accomplishments round out with 11 All-NBA First Team selections, nine-time All-Defensive First Team selections, and an NBA Most Valuable Player Award in 2008.
Tim Duncan took the opposite route to his NBA stardom. After making a promise with his mother to graduate college, Duncan then made himself eligible for the NBA. The number one overall pick kept his lofty expectations when he immediately went on to win NBA Rookie of the Year and finishing fifth in MVP voting as a rookie. Only a few years later, Duncan would claim the Most Valuable Player Award in back-to-back seasons in 2002 and 2003.
The Spurs all-time leading scorer, never letting his team win less than 50 games since the first lockout season, is a 14-time All-Star, winning the MVP twice. Couple that with 10 appearances on the All-NBA First Team and eight on the All-Defensive First Team.
All that and we didn’t even mention Duncan’s college accomplishments or Bryant’s international play.
Amongst the smorgasbord of accolades, where are the two are deadlocked? The NBA’s most prestigious award, NBA Championships.
Kobe Bryant was recently asked about Tim Duncan and his rivalry with the greatest power forward of all time.
“5-5, I got it.
“Pressure? There is always pressure on me. It’s no different to me. I enjoy the pressure. It’s been a great rivalry between myself and Tim.
He’s a great guy and an incredible basketball player. I’m very honored that we kind of grew up together competing for championships.”
Earlier in the summer, Bryant expressed his discontent with Duncan nearing his sixth championship.
“If you ask me if I’m okay with Tim [winning his sixth championship], I’m not,” Bryant told ESPN. “I’m not okay with that.”
The two have had some impressive playoff bouts in their careers, winning ten of the last 16 championships between the two of them. In the prime of Shaquille O’Neal’s career, he and Bryant rolled through the Spurs in two straight playoffs, en route to three of Kobe’s championships. When Duncan and the Spurs finally defeated their nemesis in 2003, it had seemed the tide had turned, but those pesky Lakers were back in 2004 with a miracle shot to advance. With O’Neal and Bryant feuding, the dominant Lakers team disbanded. However, with Bryant as the sole leader in 2008, he denied the Spurs a chance a repeating once again.
Now in the twilight of their careers, both superstars are in pursuit of their sixth NBA title. Although Bryant longs to end his career in the lead of most individual accomplishments, with the Lakers rebuilding and Kobe’s recent health issues, it seems he won’t be garnering that title in Los Angeles before his career comes to an end. Duncan is aiming to repeat for the first time in his NBA career, in what could be his final season as a professional basketball player.
Winning number six would give a clear edge to the rivalry and subsequently end the Bryant/Duncan debate.