Would East Coast Kobe Beat West Coast Kobe?

You couldn’t create a Mount Rushmore of NBA blogs without Henry Abbott, who made headlines of his own when his TRUEHOOP was bought by ESPN in February of 2007.

Kobe Bryant smiling

So, when Mr. Abbott has an opinion on something, especially on arguably the best player in the NBA, I’m usually inclined to agree. Usually.

Here, Abbott makes the point that Kobe Bryant’s stats against Eastern Conference teams don’t measure up to his pace against Western Conference teams. He does so in response to Kobe’s insinuation that his main competition for the NBA’s MVP award, LeBron James, plays in an inferior conference. It’s a fun read:

“But the story is that there is not evidence to support Bryant’s assertion that he’d go buck wild in the East. In fact, Bryant has bigger totals against the West in nearly every major category, even though he has played slighlty more minutes per game (39.1 compared to 38) against the East.

  • Against the West, Bryant is scoring 29.3 points per game. Against the East, it’s 26.7. (James is scoring 29.6 againt the West, and 32 against the East.)
  • In the all-important field goal percentage, Bryant is shooting 48% against the West, and 44% against the East. (James is at 47% against the West, and 50% against the East.)
  • Bryant is getting 6.5 rebounds per game against the West, and 5.6 per game against the East. (James is at 8 against the West and 8.2 per game against the East.)
  • Bryant registers 5.3 assists per game against the West, and 5.4 against the East. (James is getting 7.3 against the West, and 7.6 against the East.)

Bryant is marginally better shooting free throws (82% vs. 88%) and three-pointers (33% vs. 37%) against the East. But all in all, for whatever reason — pace could be a big factor, and random chance could be another — Bryant has better numbers playing in the West. “

And argument could be made — and to some extent, Abbott concedes this — that the West is not only a tougher conference competitively, but also logistically. Western Conference teams are spread farther apart (explain to me how New Orleans and Memphis play in the West). It would stand to reason that any player would see an improvement in his production with a more condensed travel schedule, all other things being equal.