Since Michael Jordan turned 50 this past Sunday, talk show hosts (and several other media members) felt it was necessary to raise the unanswerable question of “Who’s the best player of all-time?” Naturally, because they are the two best current players (with Kevin Durant nipping at their heels), the argument shifted to who’s better between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
All the comments were made – Kobe has five rings, LeBron is at his prime with many years left to
play dominate. The debate is a necessary one – if you’re ten years old. Maybe fifteen. Anytime past that age, if you continue to play the “who’s better/who’s the best game,” you need to at least realize that there are no winners (and plenty of losers.
Kobe is sensational – skill set, mind set, defensive ability, personal drive and (which can be a negative, depending on how strong or fragile your teammates are) ability to demand/produce the best in your teammates. MJ shared the exact same qualities. Which is why Kobe has them – because, from the day he entered the league, he has modeled everything he does like Jordan. Not just his play, which is sensational, but his mannerisms, his dealing with the media, his gait … his being.
LeBron can’t match those two because his skills, body, mental aspect – nothing – is like those two. He’s 6’8″ and willing to admit to 250, with rumors as high as 280, and negligible body fat. For that reason, people have tried to compare him to Magic. LeBron is no Magic either, if for no other reason than Magic was a point guard and LeBron is not. LeBron is the epitome of what Don Nelson used to call a point guard. Magic ran the show and, when he shot, it was a set shot. He could drive, but it usually ended with a pass or a layup, seldom a dunk. LeBron is the show, shoots (real) jumpers, and when he drives, the result is … louder. It still obtains the same desired results as Magic – Ws.
Sure, you can get into “rings,” what we used to call championships but what now needs to be defined as something you can wear and show off, as opposed to a something you were part of, that only a selected few can actually claim they “be” (as opposed to “have”). So when the trump card in the Kobe vs. LeBron debate is five rings to one, the line LeBron used (oh so obviously created by one of his publicists), that if rings are the determining factor, then Bill Russell must be the best because he has 11 and Michael has six.” Then, others had to be brought in besides Russell, e.g. Wilt Chamberlain, Jud Bueschler, Charles Barkley, Robert Horry, Reggie Miller, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing and a cast of characters from NBA past and present.
I’m on record as saying MJ is the G.O.A.T. but as far as Kobe versus LeBron, it’s too tough a call. They’re waaaaaay different, each with their own strengths. Kobe couldn’t have won as many without Shaq but Shaq couldn’t win as many without Kobe (even though they each did without each other). LeBron couldn’t win without selecting his current teammates but, c’mon, he got to the Finals with the Cavs. Have you ever checked that roster? Closely checked it? Had he won the whole thing with that group, the comparisons would be with Bill Walton and the Trailblazers. Take LeBron off the Cavs and Walton off the Blazers and pit the remaining players against each other. That finals would probably be the least watched in television history. Definitely the most boring, lackluster series ever.
It’s been used before but John Harbaugh’s rule should be considered prior to anyone opening their mouth in the Kobe-LBJ discussion:
“I’ve got this rule. We make no comparisons. Somebody is going to be devalued.”