Legendary basketball coach Larry Brown compared two basketball greats - Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson. Both players came to the league in 1996 NBA draft and had established themselves as the brightest stars at turning of the new millennium.
But what was the significant difference between two great players who amazed the world with their skills?
Coming in from the Georgetown University, Iverson was already an established star in the NCAA. Coming in from the Lower Marion HS Bryant was more of an enigma. Luckily for Bryant, Lakers GM Jerry Westpaired him with one of the most dominant, if not the most dominant big man of all-time, in Shaquille O'Neal. The two led the L.A. Lakers to championship titles in 2000, 2001, and 2002.
On the East coast, 6'0'' Iverson was asked to carry the scoring load for the Philadelphia 76ers. The team coached by Larry Brown eventually reached the NBA finals in 2001. After one decade in Philly, Iverson was traded to Denver Nuggets, where he starred along forward Carmelo Anthony.
“Allen said that when he was coming back from the club at six 0'clock in the morning, Kobe was getting up and working out. That was the difference. And it doesn't surprise me because Allen was that kind of player.”
Both perennial All-Stars put their royal seal on the new millennium NBA. But, there were also differences between the two. First and foremost, in their player's (and personal) mentality, which, subsequently reflected in the W-L records of their respective teams.
“Had he (Iverson) taken a little bit of care of himself, and admitted it, I'm sure he would have done even more then he did, which is pretty incredible.”
It's easy to resume why Kobe spent all of his 20 years with the Lakers and why Iverson's 14-year stint in the league turned into the journeyman's trip.
The significant difference between the two was their winning attitude - Kobe led the Lakers to five NBA championship titles posting a remarkable 836-510 (62.1%) regular-season winning record over the two decades. On the other hand, Iverson posted 466-448 (50.9%) regular-season record with his respective teams and made his postseason peak by reaching the 2001 NBA finals with Philly.
And at the end of the career, it's the rings which count the most.