Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 at 10:05 am  |  103 responses

Tracy McGrady Says Kobe Bryant Harder to Guard than Michael Jordan

According to T-Mac, it’s not even close. Cornered at LAX by TMZ paparazzi, Tracy McGrady said that Kobe Bryant was a tougher matchup than Michael Jordan. (Kobe recently named McGrady the hardest player to guard that he ever faced): “At least one NBA star is willing to say it — Kobe Bryant is a much tougher opponent than his airness, Michael Jordan was, at least according to Tracy McGrady. McGrady was responding to Kobe’s recent comment that T-Mac was the hardest player he ever had to guard — so, we expected him to throw a little praise back at Kobe. [...] McGrady wasn’t just being nice and actually went out of his way to say it’s ‘not even close’ who his toughest assignment was on the court. Remember, McGrady checked Jordan during MJ’s final title run in Chicago … when he was still making players look foolish.”

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  • Jay Cutler

    This is going to be a good comment thread *rubs hands*

    This is also the guy who famously proclaimed “It feels good to finally be out of the first round.”

    Enough said.

  • LLC#12

    T-Mac experienced defending Kobe at most points in his career, like when he was at his most athletic, but only experienced defending MJ when MJ was like 35, when he was still athletic, but not as athletic as he used to be. I could maybe believe that a prime Kobe might be harder to defend than MJ aged 35 in 1998, but prime MJ vs prime Kobe isn’t even a question.

  • star

    cmon tmac

  • JibbsIsBallin

    In my opinion, this isn’t a fair comparison. Jordan towards the end of his career was not Jordan at his prime. But TMAC did face Kobe in his prime. Its all good though. Tmac and Kobe showing some respect for one another. I don’t think its anything more than that.

  • chyea

    Interesting how Kobe never mentions LeBron, even though he gets the best of him in nearly all of their head-to-head matchups.

  • bike

    This is some serious Man Love here.

  • Myung

    When T-Mac was guarding Jordan late in his prime (before Jordan retired as a Bull… and before he came back on the Wizards well past his prime)… T-Mac was in his first year in the League and was a high school senior the year before that, he was a bench player and averaged 18 minutes a game as a rookie.

    The flipside is, he spent most of his prime guarding Kobe in his prime. They played against each other all the time.

    So basically, it’s like saying a restaurant he’s been to 900 times is better than the restaurant he’s been to one time.

    Or something to that effect.

    But thanks for offering insight, T-Mac. You’re really qualified to talk about guarding Michael Jordan in his prime (for the record, Mike was already 35 by then, or if you want to look at it another way, the age Kobe JUST TURNED a few weeks ago) after having played against the Bulls for exactly 87 minutes (3 games in your rookie year). How many of those 87 minutes were you even on the court at the same time as Mike? Game 1 was a 27 point loss. Game 2 was a 37 point loss. Game 3 was a 1 point loss (very respectable actually).

  • Conor

    How do you possibly know that? smh

  • JoeMaMa

    Could be true.
    The answer, though, doesn’t tell you “Kobe’s better than Jordan”. It tells you that during his career, which really took off about 4 years into things, that McGrady had the most trouble with Kobe. That’s all.

  • Michael

    I think it’s pretty safe to say Prime MJ > Prime Kobe. But Prime Kobe being better than end of career Jordan (real career not 40 yr MJ) isn’t so far fetched.

  • Conor

    “Remember, McGrady checked Jordan during MJ’s final title run in Chicago … when he was still making players look foolish.”’

    It literally says that. Why are you Jordan fans ignoring it? There’s Denial and then there is Ignorance.

  • Gman

    Cuz he was stronger, quicker, more efficient.

  • Myung

    2 point loss on that 3rd game. Sorry.

  • Myung

    I fully admit I’m a hardcore Jordan fan and a Kobe hater, but I respect the heck out of Kobe’s offensive brilliance. That being said, the rules completely changed during Kobe’s prime. As incredible a scorer as he is, he played in an era where you couldn’t breathe on a player. Yes, Money got a lot of superstar calls too, but he also played in an era where you could actually foul people, especially on the perimeter with hand checking.

    I think someone like Gary Payton (someone who played both guys in their primes) would be a better judge of who was tougher to guard than T-Mac.

    I don’t have a problem with someone saying Kobe was harder to guard. As much as I ride for Mike, I’m not going to act like Kobe wasn’t/isn’t a tremendously gifted scorer. I’m merely saying HE (T-Mac) isn’t exactly the best judge of this argument when you consider his small sample size.

    Guarding old Michael Jordan the Wizard simply doesn’t count.

  • LLC#12

    Built a time machine, played em both….

    Of course I don’t know, it’s just an opinion. An accurate, widely-held, commonly believed, rarely disputed opinion…

  • Chris Green

    Was it the fewer points per game, or the worse fg% that made Kobe tougher than MJ? Actually I would hope a prime Kobe would be tougher to guard than last year 35 year old Bulls MJ, and 38-40 year old Washington MJ. – Regardless, neither Kobe or MJ say McGrady was tough to score on.

  • Matisse

    Gee, I don’t know, because he was 35 years old. Do you think Kobe Bryant who recently turned 35 years old is still the offensive savage that he was when he was 28 years old?

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    “Remember, McGrady checked Jordan during MJ’s final title run in Chicago … when he was still making players look foolish.””

    - whoever wrote that, do you know anything about that season? did you do any research before you typed that sentence?




    with the Bulls, Michael Jordan played one game of more than 28 minutes against McGrady. He scored 33 in that game,


    Let’s compare both head to heads against McGrady….see who had a harder time doing his thing…


    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/h2h_finder.cgi?request=1&p1=jordami01&p2=mcgratr01 (Jordan vs McGrady)

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/h2h_finder.cgi?request=1&p1=bryanko01&p2=mcgratr01 (Bryant vs McGrady)

    Total shocker….Jordan shot a better %, despite more than half of his games against McGrady being in Washington….and 2 of the 3 games w/ Chicago, Jordan played sparingly, because Toronto was a trash heap.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/ Nick Tha Quick

    But, but.. the Shock Exchange does not agree with this…so it must no be true.

  • Dfrance

    To your point about GP, you’d also have to take into account that GP was at his prime as a defender when he played against MJ, while he was on the decline once Kobe hit his prime, so he wouldn’t be a great judge either.

    This is just one of those opinion based, cross generational things that can’t be determined with any certainty.

  • danpowers

    thank you so much

  • Myung

    Fair point. I was just trying to come up with someone who played in that 1996 to 2004 period and was in his own respective prime. Maybe the Glove wasn’t the best example.

    I still feel like he’d be a fair judge of talent because Kobe was hitting his stride in the early 2000′s, and Payton was still a tremendous player at that point, in addition to the fact that he got to check Kobe for an entire season during Lakers practice (2003-04).

    But yeah, I’m sure there’s a better example. Jason Kidd? Eddie Jones? Jerry Stackhouse? Those might be the best three?


    You don’t think players like Kobe and LeBron are officiated differently, in spite of contemporary regulations? They are mauled, consistently. Especially Kobe. The best endure, no matter the era.

    It’s known as “leveling the playing field”.


    Not athletically, but his shot and mindset have improved. I mean, this isn’t exactly tame…


  • Dfrance

    Idk that there is a player that was a prime defender from the mid 90s all the way up to the early-mid 2000s. But those are some good examples.

  • def80s

    I am Lebron fan and I can’t agree with that considering the last All Start where Kobe blocked him twice but then again didn’t seem like Lebron was taking that game seriously like Kobe was on those plays.

    So actually you may have a point if you do have facts to back it up, which I hope you do cause I’m a Lebron fan.

  • Myung

    Sorry, but if you watch NBA games from the mid 80′s through late 90′s… and compare that to today’s game… it’s not even close.

    Watch particularly the way perimeter defenders check their opponents.

    I think guys like KD, Melo, Kobe, and Bron would be effective scorers in any era; they could have adjusted. I’m not saying they’re not great players.

    BUT what I am saying is that guys like Michael, Nique, Isiah, Bird, etc played in an era where you could use your hands all the time when checking perimeter players. I have no doubt in my mind that MJ’s already high career ppg average would be substantially higher if he played his prime during the “let’s increase our scoring so we’re going to protect the offensive players” era.

    Again, I know MJ got a bunch of superstar calls. I can be objective about that.

    But he took WAY more of a pounding than the stars of today. It’s not even close.

    If you clothesline a guy now, you get ejected, fined, and suspended. If you clotheslined a guy back in the day, you got called for a foul and that was pretty much it.

  • ChosenOne

    I knew it… after reading 17 comments this has already turned into a Kobe v MJ debate. Lol, I aint getting into it, but you’re all entitled to an opinion.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Because Jordan played only one game of more than 30 minutes against McGrady that season …… And he put up 33

  • shockexchange

    The fact that one would compare MJ at 35 to Horry Jr in his 20s speaks volumes. For the record, the MJ / Horry Jr comparisons are plain silly. A better comparison for Horry Jr would be Robert Horry.

  • JoeMaMa

    Different time, different rules, different ways of getting into the league, different number of teams, different salary structures and relations to league management, different recovery methods, different points along the evolution of basketball…even differences in media coverage – different everything. It’s pointless to say “Player X would’ve done 1/2/3″. You can really only compare players of the same era. Jordan was the best in his for about 8 years. That’s argument enough.

  • ChosenOne

    Have any of you actually watched the video first before commenting?
    Go and watch it, he even says “I never faced MJ in his prime.” He never made any claim of who is better, but of course that was TMZ’s mission, to insinuate that T-Mac thinks Kobe is better than MJ and then relay that to the public. Tracy didn’t imply that.

  • TR

    I’ve heard J-kidd say Jordan is his toughest cover ever. I think he’s a pretty reliable source to go off of on this one.

  • LakeShow

    They shot the same percentage. Kobe was the slightly tougher cover at this point.

  • LakeShow

    With McGrady thoroughly remembering prime Kobe and having not played against prime MJ he can’t give an honest answer.

    In 1998 MJ wasn’t as good as Kobe was at his peak, so that is where McGrady is getting it twisted.
    MJ a few years earlier was the toughest cover of all time arguably, but he had started to slow down quite a bit by this point.

  • LakeShow

    Kobe scored more ppg and did it on the same fg%…

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    fixed* MY BAD

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    ^ the best comment in this section

  • spit hot fiyah

    also the amount of reps. he probably played jordan 2 or three times and probably matched up with him for very limited minutes. while he went toe to toe with kobe for many years.

  • LakeShow


  • LakeShow

    thank ya
    f*cking TMZ…

  • ChosenOne

    But Tracy isn’t getting it twisted, he even says “I never faced MJ in his prime.” This is TMZ just fu*kin’ around.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    if someone could find Latrell Sprewell, i think he’d probably be the guy i’d ask.

  • ChosenOne

    Bruce Bowen, and I know he said MJ was the toughest.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Latrell Sprewell baby

  • Evan Boland

    Eeeehh. I don’t know about that.

  • Evan Boland

    So, who do you take ’98 MJ or ’07 Kobe?

  • http://www.rich-imaging.com/ Dutch Rich

    I can see why he says that. At this stage in Mike’s career, his midrange game was so efficient that he didn’t employ much effort on getting a glimpse of daylight. So if he refers to the difficulty of staying in front of his man and contesting shots then yes, I can fully agree. As far as the degree of difficulty of shots of the 2 players in their respective primes I would say from memory that Kobe was a bit superior from the perimeter where as Mike, by far, excelled at that in the paint, where the responsibility gets deferred to the help.

  • Michael

    I’m just thinking about what T-Mac’s reasoning could be, I don’t actually agree with myself if that makes any sense

  • LakeShow

    Um… 07 Kobe. By a smidge.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    of course you don’t.

  • bubblecat

    Ahh I finally know who Horry Jr is.

  • KingBenjamin

    You’re such an idiot with that Horry Jr. BS, just a typical Kobe Bryant hater.

  • straight cake

    If Gary Payton came out and said this stuff it would hold more credibility than T-Mac because Jordan wound up going 6-for-19, scoring 23 points in Game 4 of the Finals in 96′, his lowest output ever in the Finals up to that point, and was visibly frustrated plus even in Game 6 even though the Bulls ultimately won that match up, Payton and the Sonics at least made Jordan work, holding him to 22 points on 5-for-19 shooting.

  • straight cake

    Gary Payton Admits John Stockton…


  • robb

    I love T-Mac but that comment was idiotic.

  • playa

    i would say by quite a lot, better comparison would be 96′ mike vs 06-07 kob , they would be possibly equal in my opinion.Pre baseball era, forget about it.

  • Dfrance

    Ah, nice find. I remember this interview.

  • berkamore

    Won’t even get into Mike/Kobe debate because I don’t think it’s even close. I’ll just say that people have short memories and leave it at that…………

    But hard to guard could mean many things. I remember a piece in Sports Illustrated ( I believe) on guarding Mike and Steve Smith (I believe it was him who was profiled) said that it didn’t feel though to guard Mike, he would just get by you and score so it wasn’t actually painful and you wouldn’t be embarrassed. Still at the end of the game, he would have dropped 40 on you.

    However, Smith said that guarding Reggie Miller was tough because Miller would run you into so many screens (and if y’all remember the Davis boys that played for Indiana, that must have hurt….) before he even got the ball. At the end of the game, your whole body would hurt like a mofo……………LOL.

  • LakeShow

    Yeah it might be slightly more comfortable for KB than a smidge, but they were quite comparable players at this time too.

  • New School

    Do you guys remember that Pippen commercial were he goes back in time to the black and white tv days? That’s exactly how todays players would treat 80′s players. Just keeping it real old timers.


    Oh, I agree that the game is soft now. But Kobe deals with stuff like the video provided below, unique to modern players. I wish the League wasn’t so zone-orientated, defensively…


  • bike

    LMAO. Yeah, plus staring you down and trash talking the whole time. Probably wear you out mentally.

  • RKJ92

    You have to be one of the biggest Kobe d*ck slurpers ever.. how could you even try to argue Kobe being harder to defend then Jordan that’s just idiotic..

  • Chris

    Lawls. Remember when Jordan dropped 81 on your weak ass raptors. Oh wait. That was Kobe.

  • L22

    Alright, did you guys actually watch the video? The guy interviewing him wanted to get a headline that says “T-Mac thinks Kobe was harder to guard than Jordan.” T-Mac specifically states that he never played against Jordan in his prime, basically saying he can’t compare the two. Yet SLAM posts the same headline TMZ was going for. I expect more from this site…

  • Myung

    True. I’ll give you that. But pretty much every NBA player who takes it to the rack consistently will get banged pretty hard from time to time. Kobe’s always one of the league leaders in FTA’s. Sure, he takes his share of licks, but that comes with the territory if you’re a guy who’s getting fouled all the time.

    I will say this in Kobe’s defense: he takes it to the hole a lot, considering he’s been in the league for so long (and considering he has a solid outside game). Michael settled for the fadeaway a lot towards the end of his career (esp his Washington days, which I actually like to imagine didn’t even happen… haha) and had much fewer FTA’s later in his career.

    Kobe still attacks the rim a lot, considering the miles on his legs.

    BUT I don’t necessarily think he’s taking harder hits than anyone else. If you go that hard at dudes and especially that often, you’re going to get hit. Sometimes hard.

  • Joblo

    T-Mac says that Kobe is the toughest player HE had to guard and he’s right. The statement would have been different if he had guarded Jordan in the 92-93 season, when Jordan was just unstoppable (he averaged 41 ppg in the finals that year).

  • Junior Taylor

    You do know that Fouls, FTM and FTAs have been on a steady decline ever since MJ played his last game as a Bull? Nevermind, carry on with the “today’s players get all the calls” babble.

  • Da-Meat-Hook

    Word? That’s what you’re basing your argument on?!

    So forget points per game, or field goal percentages, or scoring titles, or player efficiency, or the fact that MJ is widley regarded as the best player of all time. Kobe is a tougher player to defend because Kobe caught fire against a horrible team with the combination of an old Jalen and a bloated Mo Pete guarding him in single coverage?!

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    The last 6 seasons have the least “fouls per game” of any 6 seasons in NBA history…..

  • 2pac

    TMac just be called hater mac !

  • Ishmael Jenkins

    Because McGrady was well-known for his defensive abilities, right? I’d rather hear him talk about who was tougher to score on, not who was tougher for him to defend.

  • Myung

    Junior Taylor, the thing that I was pointing out as the main thrust of my argument was the hand checking rules. I shouldn’t have said the “actually foul people” part.

    But as a whole, the game has changed.

    Less perimeter D allowed.

    More zone.

    More three’s.

    The game has changed since the 80′s and 90′s. That much is certain. This current era is a boon for players like Melo, Durant, Steph, Bron, and Kobe. If you’re a guy with a quick first step and a consistent three point shot, you can have your way with defenders. That’s all I’m saying. Again, I shouldn’t have said the “actually foul people” part. Sorry.

  • LP @ThisisEther

    Bloated Morris Peterson…………… so harsh

  • Interdico Scriptor


  • Interdico Scriptor

    Yeah… I been wonderin’ for months

  • Interdico Scriptor

    I can taste it

  • shockexchange

    And after the vicious attack against his person, SE stands corrected. It’s not silly to compare MJ to a gloried role player.

  • http://www.offthebackboard.wordpress.com/ Off The Backboard

    Would just like to point out that he clearly says I DIDN’T PLAY AGAINST JORDAN IN HIS PRIME in the video, and is picking Kobe based on his contemporaries at the time.

    Please don’t use TMZ as the basis for news on a credible basketball site; this magazine/site is better than that.

  • http://www.offthebackboard.wordpress.com/ Off The Backboard

    Thank you for saying this. People are losing their mind over a misleading TMZ title that SLAM clearly decided to retain.

  • berkamore

    Yeah, that too. LOL.

  • Black Pinoy

    I guess it depends on who you ask the question to. Bu hey, he said kobe was a tougher coverage for him. WHy wont you just all let him be. Go play Jordan and Kobe and we will ask you the same question.

  • Conor

    You are an embarrassment to fellow Canadians.

  • Conor

    Why hasn’t anyone else done it?

  • RKJ92

    Because I said that you can’t compare Kobe to Michael Jordan’s offensive game? LOL wow.. want to prove my point more? you must have been da smurterest in ur class; good job man please continue while I rip you to shreds it will be fun :)

  • Conor

    No, mostly because you have difficulty spelling and it holds a special, imbecilic ilk which poorly reflects our education system.

  • RKJ92

    Jesus.. your actually too stupid to insult :-/

  • Conor

    Debate when you can spell “you’re”.

    Next time I visit my friends at U of T, I’m playing you one-on-one.

  • RKJ92

    LOL any day please.. I am begging you too, I would destroy you one on one. I will let you pick where I shoot from; I will call out what shot I am doing if you don’t pick where I shoot, and still score. I will EVEN play defense without using my hands, and if you manage to score more then 5 points on me I’ll even buy you lunch for trying hard.

  • Conor

    If you say so.

    My name’s Conor O’Hara (https://www.facebook.com/rembrandt.bilberry). Message me so we can get this thing settled. I may not be able to go until January, when the Lakers go to town, but I promise that you won’t score a single point against me.

    SLAM, just so you guys know, we’re recording this one-on-one.

  • Conor

    *If the link doesn’t work, Google Search “Facebook+Rembrandt Bilberry”.

  • Smits#45

    Maybe T-Mac finds Kobe’s style of play harder to defend than Jordan’s. It seems unlikely to me but it’s possible. However when he said that it’s ”not even close” he lost a lot of credibility in my book.

  • NatsuDragoniI

    Payton answered the toughest and harder to guard on all time was John Stockton. Not Kobe, Not Jordan. Not everyone but JOHN FUCKING STOCKTON.

  • NatsuDragoniI

    But Gary Payton already said it, He said the toughest player to guard is John Stockton, Not Jordan, Not Kobe, Not everyone but only John Stockton.

  • LLC#12 is stupid

    you stupid sh*t do you know how hard it is to score 81 points against 5 professional players in an NBA game with 12 minute quarters?????? you act as if just cause the players were terrible that it was no mighty feat, you have NO IDEA how hard it is to score even 40 points against a crappy team. to most players scoring 81 points seemed IMPOSSIBLE even against a team like the bobcats and you are acting like it was no big deal smh ignorant basketball fan, you obviously never player competitive in high school or college

  • Anthony Darnello Taylor Jr.

    How bout 63 points in a playoff game where they are actually trying to stop you…….yeah

  • kevin

    you play defense with you legs not your hands young blood.

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  • John Bel Sevillena

    Kobe’s moves are from Jordan..

  • Ray

    Wasn’t there this one guy who scored 100 points once? I think he scored 70+ five or six times as well.

  • IconicSince84

    The last couple times Payton checked Jordan when he played for chicago he gave him 40+.

  • IconicSince84

    Jordan played T-Mac 3 times on the bulls. Chicago won all three games. Jordan didn’t play more than 29 minutes in the first two meetings and the third game. He gave T-mac 33 with 41 minutes played. I’m pretty sure T-mac was referring to Kobe at his best vs Jordan past his physical prime because he had no experience vs the “come fly with me” Jordan. His game was completely evolved by 97-98. If you don’t believe me use the different jordans on nba2k and see. lol.