Is Yao Ming better than Kobe Bryant?
Maybe this question seems weird or ridiculous, given the fact that Kobe Bryant has won 5 titles, multiple awards, and is considered one of the best in history. However, if we look at the player efficiency rating we observe that Kobe Bryant is 25th while Yao Ming is 24th. So what does this mean?
In the beginning, let’s learn more information about this stat, the PER. This formula was developed by John Hollinger in an attempt to create a single number that integrates all the other categories. So, this system is based on field goals, free throws, 3-pointers, assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals, but also on missed shots, turnovers, and personal fouls. Then, the formula tries to compute the player’s performance per minute.
In the all-time leaderboard, Michael Jordan is first with 27.91, LeBron James is second with 27.61, and Anthony Davis is 3rd with 27.44. Then the list goes on with Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Wilt Chamberlain, and so on. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is on the 12th place, Magic Johnson is on number 15, while his rival, Larry Bird, is the 22nd. However, there are a lot of all-time greats that stand on very interesting positions. Bill Russell is on the 117th place, Scottie Pippen is on the 131st place and James Worthy is on the 182nd place.
So, how does this happen? Well, one answer would be that the PER is more focused on the offensive side of the game and less focused on the defense. Therefore, players who were great defensive players are automatically disadvantaged because there isn’t really a stat to count the stops, the changes, the great defense. Another answer is that even if you are a great offensive force you are disadvantaged. That’s because players like that have a lot of shot attempts and in the formula, shot attempts are penalized a lot.
Another thing that you can’t really comprehend in numbers is leadership. Let’s look at the following example: Imagine that you are a coach and you have two players. One of them is a superstar that scores a lot and the other one is still a good player but he also manages to motivate his teammates and to get the best out of them. Who would you choose to resign in the summer?
Another aspect that isn’t counted here is the mental side of the game. We all know how important it is to have a strong mind and to try to dominate your opposition. However, these stats don’t measure that, don’t measure the pressure that a player puts on the other side. A basketball player is a human, not a robot, that’s why numbers describe just a small part of a player.
However, the PER is still a great formula and usually, it is accurate but sometimes the calculations fail and don’t show the truth. If you ask anyone who is the better player, Kobe Bryant or Yao Ming, I guarantee that each one of them would respond ‘Kobe Bryant’. And, that’s because sometimes reality is more than just some stats.