Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan were uniquely linked on the court, as their respective five-title careers intersected and often ran through each other's. Duncan's retirement announcement on Monday means both icons will be gone next year, a generation's two biggest stars concurrently saying farewell.
Consider how they ruled from separate kingdoms: From 1999 to 2014, either Bryant or Duncan played in the NBA Finals in all but three years. (Dwyane Wade played in each of the other three.)
Both are staples in the modern-era NBA Mount Rushmore. Along with John Stockton, they played the longest for a single team. But comparing them head-to-head wholly and objectively is tricky. Kobe is one of the game's most polarizing players ever. He never had Duncan's organizational stability. Duncan, the humble craftsman, was never reliably marketable, nor overwhelmingly popular.
So you tell us: Whose legacy is better? Below the poll is a little more info to help you make your decision.
A case for Kobe:
The edge in career scoring, assists, steals, 3s and free-throw percentage
Two Olympic gold medals
A global impact culturally and economically
An unquantifiable ruthlessness
18-12 record against Duncan in the playoffs
More All-Defensive First Teams; more All-NBA First Teams; more All-Star Game MVPs
Successfully defended a title three times
Tim on Kobe: "He was someone you had to keep an eye on, you had to worry about, you had to fear, because he was going to bring it."
A case for Tim:
The edge in career rebounds, blocks, win share, VORP and PER
More MVPs; more Finals MVPs
Never missed the playoffs in 19 seasons
Started and played more games despite four years in college
31-21 record against Bryant in the regular season
Won titles across three decades
21/20/10/8 in a title close-out game
Kobe on Tim: "More cutthroat than people give him credit for. I loved everything about him on the court."
A complete breakdown of their career statistics can be found here.
[Credit: All photos Getty]