The Clarity in the Cataracts

This really is a new and exciting time to be arguing about the game's best player. Ever since Jordan retired, MVPs have come and gone, but in the back of everybody's mind, there was never really a debate over who the game's best player was-Iversons and Nowitzkis and KGs and Nashes have streaked through the basketball world and claimed their moments in the sun, but in the back of the mind the league had returned to being in the shadow of giants-Shaq laid in the back of everybody's mind as the true best player in the league, and when he passed over the hill, it was Duncan. It's no coincidence that every finals since Jordan retired has featured either Shaq or Duncan, and they captured the title all but one time in the last nine years.

But now, with the Suns setting around Shaq and Duncan finally aging and falling below 20 points per game, and Dwight Howard not yet able to claim the throne of The Dominant Big, the NBA's brightest stars are also deserving of the distinction as the league's true best player. Currently, the man occupying that throne is Kobe Bryant, the current gold standard of true and lasting NBA greatness.

Deserving or no, Kobe is a unique heir to the throne-while previous standard-holders made their claim based on games and achievements impervious to doubt or question, Kobe's greatness is shrouded in mystery; his closest historical comparison would be pre-championship Chamberlain or Jordan, who consensus dictated were inferior to Russell and Bird/Magic before they won their rings, but Kobe is different even from them. He has the necessary rings to make his claim, but won them as his team's second-best player, and is probably even better as an individual player now than he was when he achieved his rings. There is precedent for great players winning championships after their individual primes, but almost none who achieved their individual primes after their championship years.

I was talking to my boss, who runs the LA Times' Laker Blog and watches Kobe as much as any human being on the planet, and he simply said, "If you watch Kobe Bryant every day, there is no way you don't think he's the best player in this league." It's easy to see what he means-Kobe is at the same time the league's most well rounded player and the one most capable of singular domination. He can shoot beautifully, he can explode to the hole and put jaws on the carpet, he combines power with grace, he's a great passer with surpassing court vision, he plays defense, and he has a dizzying array of moves to compliment and harness his skills.

But to call him a jack-of-all trades is to discount his ability to focus all his energies and envelop a team in a flurry of baskets; although he no longer holds the league's scoring title, he is still the one most capable of an outburst of scoring that can cripple a team all by itself-witness 81, or the 30 points he scored after the third quarter had ended against the Mavericks on Sunday. He plays every game with legendary resolve and competitiveness. (My favorite documented video evidence of this-the 1997 dunk contest. (Music NSFW.) First of all, Bob Sura was in the dunk contest. Second, look right after Michael Finley misses the two-ball dunk with Kobe sitting on a 49-He fist-pumps. A 19-year old kid rooting for a fellow dunker to fail. Cold-Blooded.) Quite simply, he is a humanly perfect basketball player, which, when coupled with the championships on his resume, makes him a logical choice as the game's true great, and allows us to forgive him the trespasses of failing to win a playoff series in the absence of Shaq.

The thing about Kobe being the league's best player because of his perfection is the exception, rather than the norm, to the league's greatest players. The league's greatest players have always been Gods, capable of impacting the game through their sheer force of being rather than their individual ability-Wilt impacted games without needing to do the impossible because of his crushing impact on the boards, on defense, and the way he changed everything on offense before he even shot the ball-likewise with Russell, Shaq, Walton, Moses, and Kareem. Likewise, Bird, Magic, Robertson, and now Nash change the game through their ability to change the game through their passing and divine sense of the game.

God does not need to be perfect in our eyes because we acknowledge that we are unable to understand his ways. If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, than he must have known Satan would rebel, and that his rebellion would lead to the fall of Man from Paradise, and would have no need to create an heir if he is indeed immortal, but we concede what would be human flaws because we understand that God is beyond human notions of flaws or mistakes, and trust that he knows what we cannot understand. Likewise, we do not question Shaq, Duncan, or Wilt's footwork and free throw touch, Russell, Moses, and Kareem's ability to shoot from outside or operate outside the free-throw line, Magic's jump shot, or Bird's lack of athletic ability-they are beyond normal faults because the divine force of their games makes any questioning of their human shortcomings mere insolence and narrow-mindedness on our parts.

If great point guards and centers are the Gods of the game, than great perimeter players are the humans—capable of great things, able to change the world, but limited by their relative lack of power to the Gods to change at their will, and not able to have their flaws forgiven. Pistol Pete was created to be the perfect basketball player, and was as quick and as fluid a ball-handler and shooter as ever played the game, but lacked the blessing of the gods, and, like Cesar or Alexander, fell humbled without achieving the holy grail or even an MVP award. Then the Messiah came.

Like Jesus, Jordan was all the more powerful because he contained the force of the divine wrapped in the trappings of humanity. Jordan was not gifted with Wilt or Shaq's dominating physical force, or Magic and Larry's ability to affect what was happening on the entire court when they had the ball in their hands; he needed to be humanly perfect to be great, and like Jesus, he was humanly flawless-the quickness, the leaping ability, the coordination, the ball-handling, the mid-range shot, the defense, the relentless determination, everything. He even lives in parables; of being cut from his high school team, of perfecting his defense and his jump shot, of playing through the flu, of treating every scrimmage like a game 7. But as with Jesus, Michael only appeared to be mortal-he held inside his human trapping the ability of the divine, the ability to produce miracles when needed, to walk across water and over Craig Ehlo and Byron Russell and come out with six championships.

(Quick aside: LeBron is something new and scary and different altogether, the power of a dominant big with the vision of a dominant point who plays on the perimeter. Look at his game-winning layup in game 5 up against Jordan's "final shot." Jordan is played more or less straight up, while all 5 Pistons were watching LeBron-Jordan's shot was the pinnacle of human basketball skill, while LeBron was something altogether different. Look at LeBron's game today: down the stretch, he tilted the entire floor left, then went right for the slam. On his next possession, he went to the one-on-one step-back jumper. Next time down, he drew the defense and hit a wide-open Wally Sczerbiak for the dagger. Not to pull out superlatives, but that's legendary big power, legendary point game-changing, and a human feat of skill, all in one stretch. This is a special, special player, as his Shoals' boy Chris Paul, combining divine court vision with a new-era type of speed and athleticism. But this is Kobe's show.)

In the meantime, Kobe dominated the Mavericks down the stretch with a flurry of jumpers and drives for contact, burying them with 22 fourth-quarter points and 8 more in overtime. We know Kobe is human basketball perfection. Now, armed with the weapons necessary to obtain a ring to call his own, we may get an answer to the question we've been asking ever since Shaq left Kobe in purgatory; is Kobe blessed with divine providence, or is he simply a mortal king? Is he Napoleon, or is he the Second Coming? Kobe is the best mortal basketball player on the planet, probably the best since Jordan. It is because he is human that he is yet to make it back to the finals, but it is because he is perfect that he retains a tenuous grasp on the coveted title of the game's best.

With Duncan finally sliding away from the picture, Kobe's playoff run in the loaded West will be a test of the power of human perfection against all those who dare oppose it. In the playoffs, he will either become a deus ex machina and bury all that dare challenge him with a series of timely jumpers and left-handed floaters or reveal himself as only mortal and watch as his jumpers fall short of Nirvana. What I'm trying to say here is that I am really fucking stoked for this year's playoffs.

Labels: , ,


At 3/03/2008 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

27 fta

At 3/03/2008 12:36 PM, Blogger Tim said...

I have a very hard time believing Kobe is better than LeBron; and he is gonna have to come up aces in the playoffs to even begin to shake that assumption.

At 3/03/2008 12:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then you're not watching your ball. Bron is still raw, rough, and sometimes when he's great - that "witness dunk, the shot to put them up in LA earlier this year, the game winner against the Wizards last year - he's cheating: Traveling, offensive foul, traveling again. Bron's game isn't complete and he's yet to harness his talent. When he does this conversation will change, but for now - as his footwork remains spotty, his J hit or miss, his post game lacking refinement, etc. - it's Kobe

At 3/03/2008 1:04 PM, Blogger Babydaddy said...

I'm guilty of not watching enough ball too, and I think that's why I give the edge to LBJ also. Watching Kobe on the wrong night can be a real disappointment, whereas LeBron always, always does something that messes with my head. I acknowledge that if I saw every game both of them played I would probably feel different, and yet.

Then again, I think KB's 81 > WC's 100. Wilt was playing against fucking chumps.

At 3/03/2008 1:12 PM, Blogger Laphonso said...

@Kevin-Traveling is not a legitimate argument in the NBA anymore. NBA players "travel" every time they touch the ball. Shit done changed. Get with the now.

If you're going to point out the jumper that he hit IN KOBE'S EYE, then you should probably mention that he checked Bean the whole 4th and shut him down. You might know that if you were watching your balls.

But you're missing a larger point: LeBron doesn't need to have a "complete" game in all the Right Way, Bobby Knight, retrograde world-view Randy Wittman ways that you mention. He's great all the time BECAUSE he's raw, he's a beast, and he sees the floor better than anyone not named Nash. However, Kevin, I'm sure that LBJ is working hard to gain your approval. Maybe, with your help and enough polish, he will even learn to set great picks one day.

At 3/03/2008 1:29 PM, Blogger Allen said...

Well put, my dude.

At 3/03/2008 1:30 PM, Blogger Joey said...

Though this may not be his fault, a number of LeBron's finer moments seem to come as a result of athletic improvisation. Obviously they are not, but that's how they appear. Even his jumper looks like something unintended, performed by someone who is so outrageously gifted that he might as well just play basketball. Kobe, meanwhile, performs with a polish and deliberateness that immediately conjures the notion of meticulously crafted greatness. Everything he does is stylized in a way that is not true of LeBron. That may not make Kobe better, but it certainly makes him seem so.

But I also am not arguing against Kobe. Fuck, I wrote today that he might be approaching Michael's level, though that's still premature.

While LeBron has been great, and while he retains possession of the greatest potential given all his skill and his massive frame, Kobe now operates with an ineffable air of ruthlessness that is at the same time emboldening for his teammates and demoralizing for opponents. I don't yet get that from LeBron, who is magical in his own way but not quite the assassin that Kobe has become (and I'll now pay royalties to Kevin Harlan).

Was yesterday's Lakers game not vintage Michael? Kobe dominated when he had to, but not at the expense of his teammates, who remained involved and integral while playing better than you might have otherwise expected.

At 3/03/2008 1:48 PM, Blogger Nicholas said...

This post was kinda nonsensical, but I give it a pass because it linked to the Lebron layup. It's funny though, I was just thinking Friday morning about how someone should start a theology/basketball blog. (I wonder why it is that basketball lends itself so well to the arts, liberal or otherwise?)

I do agree with Joey, Kobe looks way more polished and deliberate on court than Lebron, but I think Kobe's self-consciousness has already been discussed at length on FD in the past. Whether that makes him better than or similar to Jordan, or Shaq, or whomever, I don't care. All I know is that this season has been a return to the golden age of early 80's to early 90's basketball, and I am also seriously excited about the playoffs.

At 3/03/2008 1:56 PM, Blogger Marcus said...

Kobe gets more referee favoritism than any other player except DWade. If he couldn't rely on automatic foul calls every time he gets any physical contact at all, his scoring average would drop by two or three points a game. He's constantly flinging his body into the defender to get contact and then ferociously lobbying the refs.

Kobe's game is derivative anyway. Lebron is a better and more interesting player.

At 3/03/2008 1:57 PM, Blogger Leonardson Saratoga said...

in my opinion, where you err is in the fact that we're not in an era where you can claim just one player as THE greatest. MJ was unique in that regard, he had dudes jockin him but no one even coming close to claiming number one. His first three titles came at the tail end of Bird/Magic (definitely not during their primes obviously), and who was it in the second? Malone? Stockton? Kemp? fuck that, he had no one on his tail.

At best, Kobe/LeBron is Bird/Magic, except you can't really say that, because whether we at FD like it or not, Duncan has to play into that conversation (I wouldn't entertain a greatest-in-the-lig argument for Nash or Dirk or really anyone else, a'int happenin).

That isn't a knock on Kobe at all, just saying that neither has proven enough defiantly to warrant mention as the best of this era.

However, here is the question. Lets say kobe&PAU&odom&bynum&farmar/fisher takes bron&bigben&delonte&wally&fuckingvarejao, then does it defiantly answer the question? i certainly don't think so. I think the fact that Bron plays in the East (but with a shit cast) and Kobe in the West (against immensely better talent but also WITH immensely better talent) makes this an extremely difficult argument.

In addition, anyone else see the most recent comment on that dunk contest vid in which the dude proclaimed Kobe the best dunker in contest history because he " just slammed the ball so hard it looked like it was gonna pop." Fall back man, i love me some Kobe but that was a weak contest, he's not even top 5 all time, plus I wouldnt put him in top 5 power dunkers all time.

At 3/03/2008 1:58 PM, Blogger ROME said...

All I have to say is, Lebron put his team on his back in the postseason and got his team to the finals. Even though they were swept by the Spurs, Lebron was still able to punish the so called best starting four in the entire NBA aka (The San Antonio of the East; Pistons). If Kobe is able to punish the San Antonio Spurs in a 7 game series, then he may be considered better than Lebron. Until then, Lebron's impact on a game is still more massive than what Kobe can produce while giving you double-digit rebounds and assists to go with his points and impact on the floor.

At 3/03/2008 2:07 PM, Blogger questionmark said...

call me a fool, but there is something about me that has yet to buy into LBJ's hype train. The guy's athleticism is clearly bailing him out on most of the things he does. Does that mean Kobe wasn't doing the same thing when he was LBJ's age? No. But that certainly doesn't make LBJ better than Kobe. I say if you gave a role reversal, LBJ wouldn't have been able to push the Suns to 7 games with the shitty supporting cast that Kobe was given in the godlike Western Conference. I'm almost totally sure Kobe would've duplicated or even enhanced LBJ's results.

Bron to me just hasn't shown that he has great skills as much as he's just natural talent that may diminish with age. Kobe's playing with fool-proof ways that are efficient regardless of physical talent (20 something of those points last night against the Mavs came from the foul line) and I don't believe LBJ has developed those skills yet. May be he won't...but until then, Kobe is the best all around player in the league.

At 3/03/2008 2:14 PM, Blogger Leonardson Saratoga said...

fuck that man, the "suns in 7 games" argument is rendered completely moot on account of the MASSIVE egg Kobe laid in game 7. Call me biased, but there is no fucking way LBJ mails in a performance in GAME SEVEN OF A PLAYOFF SERIES. Kobe doesn't get nearly enough flack for this.

At 3/03/2008 2:18 PM, Blogger questionmark said...

@ Saratoga-
valid point. but like i said, there's no way Bronbron would've even kept that series close where the 3rd best player on that team was a tossup btwn Smush Parker and Kwame Brown. there's no fucking way. hell, he may not even have made the playoffs out West.

At 3/03/2008 2:18 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Kobe by definition isn't a humanly perfect basketball player because his hands are too small.

Nevertheless, I agree with others that his is currently the most polished and well-rounded game in the L today.

But ...

Polish is really the only thing that puts him ahead of LBJ,* and polish is a function of time, not of inherent nature. KB24 has played more than twice as long as Bron, so he damn well better be more polished and well rounded. He'll never be able to do things that James can do, however (e.g. his passing is good but not great, he can't physically dominate 95% of the league).

So, I'll give best in the game to Kobe now (and I would include Duncan in the conversation), but he can't redefine what best in the League means. LeBron can.

* I'm not convinced that his killer instinct is actually stronger than Bron's. I just think he puts it on display, which is part of what, as Shoals has said, makes him perhaps the most psychologically interesting player. But starting with that Pistons series last year and through an absurd number of fourth quarters this year, LBJ has shown that he will put his foot on a dude's neck and press.

wv: obtiva--just read about it in a spam email

At 3/03/2008 2:21 PM, Blogger The wondering Mind said...

Lebron is Lebron, a 6-8, 250 pound manbeast with the grace of a stalking panther; the Lebron Express on its way to the rim does not stop for anything manmade or celestial. Lebron has been known to take Kobe's lunch money but is abused nightly by Carmelo who is Kobe's boy toy, so make of that what you will. For a 6-4 guard Kobe’s rebounding is great, for a 6 - 8 forward Lebron’s passing is fantastic. But remember STATS are a function of the composition of the team, for example Steve Nash is finding out that getting 15 assists a game is a lot harder when there is one less athlete to lob the ball to, now it is just old Shaq posting and re-posting taking his assists down. So while Lebron has not honed his craft, but is still a wonder to behold because of the raw power of his game, his game is still designed to mesh with a team consisting almost entirely of three point shooters (hence the high assists) and bruisers (hence the need for him to score 30 on a nightly bases) and not a team of interchangeable parts ala LA. The Lakers most nights have two or three players with 5 or more assists, while Kobe dominates the ball, he does not dominate possessions like Lebron or AI back in his Philly days. Just like AI, it is proving almost impossible to find Lebron an ideal running mate because he is most effective with the ball in his hands (yes, it would be a good idea, if he sets a screen for some else every once in a while) and seems to only coexist and thrive with dump off guys and three point specialists. So until Lebron wins a game with Smush, Luke and Kwame as starters, this argument is a non-start, Kobe was better at 23 and is better now, that is until Lebron makes me eat these words (which he will). The diversity of Kobe's game is mindblowing, he seems to take and make every single shot in the book. Last night he had a variety on display from running sky-hooks, to floaters, to pull-up jumpers, to reverse dunks coming off baseline drives to turnaround bankshots out of the post (just in one game). Lebron drives to the rim for a lay up /or dunk or shoots a pull-up jumpshot, you will never catch him posting up anybody despite a clear size advantage.

At 3/03/2008 2:41 PM, Blogger Marcus said...

Kobe's playing with fool-proof ways that are efficient regardless of physical talent (20 something of those points last night against the Mavs came from the foul line)

Right, getting the refs to bail you out works regardless of physical talent.

it is proving almost impossible to find Lebron an ideal running mate

There is an n of 1 on the attempt to get Lebron a running mate -- the mediocre Larry Hughes, who I think we can all agree is no Scottie Pippen.

At 3/03/2008 2:42 PM, Blogger The wondering Mind said...

Sorry about the "Block", i know it makes for a tough read.

At 3/03/2008 2:45 PM, Blogger Marcus said...

Lebron drives to the rim for a lay up /or dunk or shoots a pull-up jumpshot, you will never catch him posting up anybody despite a clear size advantage.

True that Lebron needs to post up more. Also to work on his foul shooting, his 3-point shooting, and his defense. Still not too near his ceiling.

At 3/03/2008 2:47 PM, Blogger questionmark said...

@ marcus-

getting to the foul line is getting refs to bail you out? not only are you scoring points but you're racking up fouls on the opponents with precision, which clearly shows that you are out-thinking and capitalizing on the errors of the opposition. thats playing smart. any player can do that, but kobe does that and can use his raw athleticism when needed.

At 3/03/2008 2:55 PM, Blogger Caleb Tyler Adam said...


i think the kobe/suns/7 game series is a weak argument. i'm assuming you watched the playoffs last year and saw lebron defeat the pistons while donyell marshall was clanging 3s off the side of the rim all day and who could he pass to? larry hughes? big z's foot? please.

and are you forgetting that lamar odom was on that lakers team? luke walton? hell, devean george? to say that kobe's best teammates that year were kwame and smush is an outrageous strawman.

At 3/03/2008 3:00 PM, Blogger ROME said...

Like I say, Lebron is still better than Kobe until Kobe can prove himself against a San Antonio like elite team in a 7 game series. While everyone wants to say that the Western Conference is so superior to the Eastern Conference, I believe the Pistons who Lebron got his Cavs to overcome last postseason were, and still are immune to that statement and now also the Cavs and Celtics. Seeing the Phoenix Suns have absolutely no defense, and never really had any for years, Lebron James would have eaten all of them up averaging 40 a game in a series as well as double-digit rebounds and assists; similar to what he did with the Wizards two years ago and Nets last postseason.

At 3/03/2008 3:03 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

LBJ has taken 550 free throws this year in 54 games. KB has taken 535 in 60 games.

And this isn't something that can be proven either way, but I suspect that LBJ dominates the ball (if he actually does) because Mike Brown hasn't designed an offense that can function without him doing so, rather than Bron being unable to play in a manner that shares the ball more widely.

At 3/03/2008 3:09 PM, Blogger americanmidwestsamurai said...

Phenomenal piece. Much respect.

To answer your question (rhetorical as it may have been), yes--I think the plight of Kobe is one destined along the path of human perfection and not of the Gods. And I like it that way.

To me, the human path is so much more interesting because it demands from them something the Gods do not need: PURE IMAGINATION.

Some would argue that the great distributors in basketball history, chiefly Magic Johnson, employed the highest levels of imagination with their no-look passes and ability to see a play before it actually happened. But examine closely and you realize that Magic's imagination required the imagination of at least one other player.

Michael Jordan, and now Kobe Bryant as scoring guards must create their scoring opportunities completely from scratch. They must imagine a unique outcome and a unique way to get to that outcome relying soley on their own abilities.

If you're familiar with the Japanese manga "Beserk," it articulates this very archetype.

A man so skilled and driven, like only a human can be--that he consistently avoids his fate. Every other character sucumbs to their fate at the hands of powerful Gods, but he does not.

This is Kobe Bryant. This is Da Vinci trumping God.

At 3/03/2008 3:17 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Why don't you hold Lebron to the same standard then? It doesn't get any more "San Antonio like" than the Spurs themselves, and they swept Lebron's Cavs.

At 3/03/2008 3:27 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

A couple things:

LeBron's career high in scoring was 56 points in a losing game against the Raptors in 2004-05. A year later Kobe scored 55 points on those same Raptors in a half (and the Lakers won).

For the last 8 seasons Kobe has played in an offense which has no focal ball handler or ball distributor, and his assist numbers in the triangle virtually mirror what both Jordan and Pippen had in the triangle. Just looking at assist numbers for Kobe vs. LeBron is not a fair comparison because LeBron handles and dominates the ball much more than Kobe ever has for the Lakers. Watch Kobe play though (especially now that he has teammates to pass it to) and you will see that he is a truly great passer.

A lot is made of how LeBron leads the NBA in 4th quarter points this year, but the Lakers are one of the top 3 teams in blowout wins this year, and as such there are many games where Kobe plays few or no minutes in the 4th quarter.

People want to dismiss Kobe because of the Game 7 against Phoenix two years ago, but it's always bothered me that people say Kobe "laid an egg" in that game. The Lakers had a 3-1 lead in that series with Kobe not being a big-time scorer (in the 3 Laker wins in that series Kobe only led the Lakers in scoring in one of them). In Game 6 Kobe had 50 points and the Lakers came one Lamar Odom missed rebound away from winning the series, but instead Tim Thomas sent the series back to Phoenix for the finale. In Game 7 Kobe had more than 20 points in the 1st half, but the Lakers were down by 15. In the second half he came out looking to involve his teammates and the Suns pushed the lead to 25 in the first 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter, and really the game was over at that point. Because of this I think Kobe has really received a huge amount of undue criticism for that loss. The reality is that Phoenix was a far better team and finally played like it. Not even Jordan should have been able to lead a team featuring Kwame, Smush, Luke and Odom to a win over that Phoenix team, so it's unfair to lay it all at Kobe's feet. That the Lakers almost won should tell you everything you need to know about how well Kobe played in that series.

People forget the numerous times Kobe came up huge in much bigger playoff games, and just focus on that one Game 7. Witness the 48 pt, 16 rebound game he had to close out the Kings in Sacramento in the 2nd round in 2001, followed by the 45 & 10 game he had in Game 1 in San Antonio to start the next round. People forget about his performance in Game 4 of the 2000 Finals, coming off an ankle injury that kept him out of the previous two games, going to OT with Shaq fouled out and Kobe taking over on Indiana's home floor with 8 straight points.

You wanna talk Game 7s? Look at the two biggest Game 7s of Kobe's career: Game 7 of the 2000 WCF and Game 7 of the 2002 WCF. Against Portland in 2000 (when Kobe was 21) Kobe's stat line was 25 pts, 11 boards, 7 assists. Against Sacramento in 2002, Kobe's stat line was 30 pts, 10 boards, 7 assists. Kobe has proven he can come through on the biggest stages there are, much more than LeBron has.

Speaking of LeBron's big performances, is beating a Detroit team that was pushed to 6 games by the Bulls last year really as impressive as it's hyped up to be? I have my doubts, especially considering LeBron laid such an egg in the Finals (never more than 25 points in any of those games and only scoring 14 in one of them). And as far as Game 7s go, LeBron's only ever been in one, in the 2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals, and his team got spanked every bit as hard as Kobe's Lakers did in that first round Game 7 that same year (Detroit 79 - Cleveland 61: LeBron with 27 points, 8 boards and only 2 assists).

I don't know currently who is better between Kobe and LeBron, although I am quite sure that if LeBron is not now the better individual talent, he soon will be (or should be, at least). But a player's legacy is largely defined by how many rings he has, and it's looking right now like Kobe may win that race by a wide margin. Maybe if they ever meet in the Finals we'll get a real look to see who is the best.

At 3/03/2008 3:34 PM, Blogger MaxwellDemon said...

To echo a whisper in several comments, my manlove for Ko and Bro notwithstanding, I'm forced to concede that Duncan wears the crown until he is forced to relinquish it. Going by rings, he only shared one with a superstar--all due respect to Manu and Parker, but I don't seem them getting nearly the same respect following any other leader.

Kobe and LeBron are vying to be Marlo (and both have a shot), but TD is Avon until he leaves the game.

At 3/03/2008 3:38 PM, Blogger The wondering Mind said...

"Like I say, Lebron is still better than Kobe until Kobe can prove himself against a San Antonio like elite team in a 7 game series." - Please Lebron shot 42.5% on his way to being swept in four last year, no point there.

i think the kobe/suns/7 game series is a weak argument - Also watched the play offs last year and watched lebron give in to Bruce Bowen with much of a fight - same deal here, no point, everybody has a bad game.

At 3/03/2008 4:00 PM, Blogger knowing is knowledge said...

Can we all remember that before beating the weakest iteration of this decade's pistons last year (no Big Ben, shaky interior D, out executed everybody and didn't have a bench), he played a lottery team (the wizards without Gil and Caron), and a team that the hard rebounding Cavs matched up perfectly with (the Nenad Kristic-less nets, a frontcourt led by MIKKI MOORE).

When Lebron actually beats a good (read: Western Conference Caliber, those Pistons were not) team in the playoffs, that's when this conversation should start.

At 3/03/2008 4:18 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Is playoff success a useful metric in either direction of the Kobe/LeBron debate? The East is weak, but LeBron has advanced and won the conference. The West is strong, but Kobe hasn't made it out of the first round without Shaq. I don't find much helpful in that data.

At 3/03/2008 4:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With Lebron James, there's a sense that you can contain him, double-team him, and force the ball into the hands of his less able team mates. Lebron has great offensive talent, but other than the series against Detroit, I really haven't seen him take over a game the same way Kobe has. Lebron can explode for 40+ points on any given night, but its more similar to how Steve Nash could get 40+ points than how Kobe could score 40+.
Lebron is essentially a point forward, and while he doesn't force his offense, the offense always has to go through him. The comparison previously mentioned to AI playing on Larry Brown's Philly team is very apt. Kobe, on the other hand, has not had to dominate the ball in the past few seasons. Of course, this is largely due to Phil Jackson's triangle offense versus Mike Brown's lack of offense, so until Cleveland gets an offensive identity beyond Lebron, this discussion is incomplete. Also, Kobe has had essentially the same teammates for the past 2-3 seasons, and they have all gotten better (yes, Odom too)playing alongside him, though this too should be largely attributed to Phil Jackson's presence. Other than Gibson, all of Lebron's teammates (pre-trade) are effectively playing worse than they were before playing with Lebron. Again, a large part of the blame has to fall on Mike Brown's shoulders, but that doesn't absolve Lebron either.

For me, it boils down to this:
If I were any team in the league, I'd rather face Lebron than Kobe in a game seven. You can double team Lebron, pack in the lane, and let his teammates and his jumpshot beat you. There's no single defense against Kobe; your defense has to adjust to his game, not the other way around.

At 3/03/2008 4:28 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

knowing is knowledge said... "When Lebron actually beats a good (read: Western Conference Caliber, those Pistons were not) team in the playoffs, that's when this conversation should start."

While I disagree that this conversation should not even be taking place (clearly LBJ is at the very least close enough to Kobe for it to be discussed), I do agree that the Pistons are a poor measuring stick the last couple years (this one included). Since Detroit won in 2004 all they've really shown is that they have a proclivity to severely underachieve when it counts. Having to go to 7 games against the Cavs two years ago and then losing to a questionable Heat team (the weakest champion ever?), followed by an embarrassing 6 game win over the lowly Bulls and elimination by a mediocre (at best) Cavs team just shows that the Pistons have a hard time bringing their A game when they really need to.

This lackadaisical mindset I think is on display again this year, as evidenced by the recent 20 point blowout at home to the Magic, followed by going into a 20 point hole against the Bucks the next night (before coming back to lose). The Pistons are a lazy team that lacks focus and just feels like they're destined to win so they don't put forth the effort, and LeBron leading his crappy team to a win over them is as much about how badly the Pistons failed as it is about how much LeBron succeeded. The Cavs (and LeBron) ultimately got absolutely crushed by the Spurs, showing how good they really were last year.

LeBron's young though, he'll have plenty of opportunities to show us all how great he can be on the biggest stage; and for the first time since LeBron's been in the league there are actually a couple legitimately good teams in the East. A 1st round matchup with Bosh and the Raptors is no cakewalk. Neither is a 2nd round matchup with Boston, followed by a rubber match series against the Pistons in the ECF. That's the Cavs road to the Finals if the playoffs started today. Quite a bit different than the stroll through the injury depleted Wizards and the hapless Nets last year.

At 3/03/2008 4:42 PM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

There was a comment about Kobe not being better than LeBron until he proves himself in a seven game series. The funny thing is that Kobe has been doing that since 2001. See the 2001 Playoffs. Kobe absolutely obliterated the western conference and Scored 40 plus points in the first two games against the number one seed Spurs in the conference finals (He did the same thing to the Kings that year, but those were the pre-Bibby kings, and they were still cream puffs at that point). He then proceeded to do the same thing in the 2004 playoffs before burning out in the finals. Any Lakers fan will tell you that during the Lakers Championship runs it was usually Kobe doing most of the heavy lifting up until the finals (excluding 2000). Then once they reached the Finals it was Shaq's turn to say "feed the big dogg" and claim his MVP trophy. But seriously, just ask the Spurs and Kings from 2001-2004 how deadly Kobe Bryant is in the playoffs.

At 3/03/2008 5:27 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

It's funny, when John sent me his draft of this, he described it as "more FD than nuts-and-boltsy." And then the discussion gets all nuts and bolts.

To me, it comes down to how Kobe or LeBron projects "best player" when you can't really measure them by wins or rings. LeBron is such a freakish talent that he can do anything. Kobe, following on the footsteps of Jordan-as-best, has that well-rounded guard game that ultimately comes down to scoring like evil and making some key passes, rebounds, steals.

I'd say that Chris Paul, whom I nominated for the distinction last week, is like center: He's that point where cornerstone and role player intersect, or dissolve into each other. Arguing about how LeBron or Kobe make others better is silly compared to the case for Paul, who by his very nature does so. That no big man really grabs that distinction now tells us that Yao or Dwight aren't where Shaq was at.

Expect to see this rewritten and recycled in a more perfect form tomorrow on TSB, but I wanted to get the thought out. I have bad carpal tunnel shit, as I alluded to in my last post, and am trying to learn to type with these weird-ass gloves on.

At 3/03/2008 5:30 PM, Blogger WAW said...

I keep thinking back to Ziller's charts with Lebron and Kobe at the top of the player-greatness pyramid, but at either side of a dividing line (skill vs. raw gifts). They are two entirely different beasts, but nearly equal in their greatness.

PS: A bit heavy on the biblical references in this one. The occasional allusion is good stuff though...

At 3/03/2008 5:32 PM, Blogger Krolik1157 said...

Just to clarify, b/c I just saw Skeets linked here with a "Kobe is better than LeBron" tag on the post; that's not really what this is saying. The references to "Kobe occupying the throne" is more a reflection of the general consensus than my personal belief, and the "this is Kobe's show" referred to the post, not the league. Shoulda made that clearer. Basically, the point of the post is that it's up in the air right now, as Kobe occupies a facet of human dominance that hasn't coincided with actual dominance before or since Jordan, and it remains to be seen if Kobe's human perfection carries with it the added divinity of Jordan's game. LeBron is a new type of hybrid player, with the peaks and pressure of human players added to the type of force of presence previously only seen in dominant bigs and the occasional great offense-runners. I actually think LeBron's better than Kobe, but the point of the post is that Kobe's greatness is a ambiguous and mercurial greatness as opposed to the concrete and quiet dominance of Duncan/Shaq, and now that his team is championship-caliber, we get to see just what that means in absolute terms.

At 3/03/2008 5:34 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

You may not like him, but there is no evidence whatsoever that Duncan has declined. Pretty stupid and foolish statement.

At 3/03/2008 5:43 PM, Blogger americanmidwestsamurai said...

The "best player argument" to me is so ridiculous. You can blab on and on about who you think is the "best" player, but what fruit--what new knowledge or insight does it bear? We all understand Bron and Kobe are elite, players in their own way. Why should we need to know more?

If you really want to have the discussion though, you've got define what constitutes "best" right? But the more and more you try and objectively define those terms, the further you move away from the purely subjective elements of players' game that make them each so unique and exciting to watch. That's my take at least.

At 3/03/2008 5:50 PM, Blogger Krolik1157 said...

Yeah, I was surprised to see Duncan's numbers are actually right where they've always been-I assumed he was in the 25-13 range for his career, but he's always been around the 20-11 range for like the last 5 years. My fault for not doing my research. It's kind of just a feel thing with Duncan-Manu and TP are so very good now (Finals MVP) that it just doesn't feel like Duncan's dominating anymore, and the Spurs had been quiet until recently, which added to the illusion he'd fallen off. I like the guy, actually. It just doesn't feel like he quietly lurks behind every MVP discussion as the true best player anymore to me, or to most others. Whether or not that's justified is another discussion.

At 3/03/2008 5:51 PM, Blogger Krolik1157 said...

And thanks for going easy on me, Zeke.

At 3/03/2008 6:14 PM, Blogger ROME said...

@ Nick

Since Kobe doesn't see the pistons or a team as put together as the pistons with offensive and defensive balance other than the spurs, that would be the team to prove his so called greatness against. The reason I think that the spurs were overwhelmingly successful in sweeping the Cavs anyway, was because of the fact that it was the first time Lebron has ever been to the finals

At 3/03/2008 6:55 PM, Blogger Kaifa said...

I haven't seen nearly enough of LeBron's games to make a qualified judgement, so I'll hold back on comparisons. But what Kobe has done this season, even pre-Gasol, is really outstanding. If you've watched the Lakers early in the season then you know that Bynum's scoring is still very much a matter of him finishing opportunities that Kobe created rather than him creating the score by himself.

And for what it's worth, LeBron himself dubbed Kobe the best player in the league and a step above everyone else in a recent interview.

At 3/03/2008 7:49 PM, Blogger BW said...

a point that's been danced around... you can feel its presence in a few of the comments:

the pro-Kobe's (myself included) see his play this year - this is a player nearing the absolute peak of his skill, the realization of the ideal Kobe (Plato's Kobe?). it IS his show.

Lebron, on the other hand, the joy/terror of watching him play confirms that the best is yet to come.

At 3/03/2008 7:53 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

Duncan rarely puts up monster numbers during the regular season. How often do you see him score 30 if it's not a playoff game? It's not really about numbers with him, he anchors that team on both ends of the floor and his presence makes Parker and Manu better.

At 3/03/2008 8:05 PM, Blogger ROME said...

I hear what everyone's talking about Kobe doing in the playoffs in 2000 and 2001 and 2002, however let's not forget that Shaq was the man who initiated all of that. The domination inside set up the fear in everyone out West in those years. Kobe was simply Robin on a team with Batman. Even back then when Shaq was hurt for the Lakers during the season, different players around the league were saying how the Lakers were a completely different team without Shaq(and that wasn't a good thing). Also, in those times Derek Fisher and even Rick Fox and Robert Horry had their imprint on a lot of those games during those feats that eventually lead to championships for the Lakers; whether in the regular season or in the playoffs.

As usual Lebron James put his team literally on his back and carried them to the finals and he's still doing it now. To add to it, Lebron James Cavs also swept Kobe's Lakers this season and put Kobe on lockdown the second game to do it. Let's not forget, that Lebron has been in his share of game 7s also in the playoffs.

At 3/03/2008 8:30 PM, Blogger sharky h. towers said...

Before Magic won his 1st ring? You mean that whole rookie regular season?

At 3/03/2008 8:32 PM, Blogger sharky h. towers said...

Nevermind... I totally read that wrong.

At 3/03/2008 8:32 PM, Blogger ROME said...

I heard of Kobe being a great passer on here, but actually, he's a decent passer. Other than making the obvious pass, Kobe cannot see the floor too well at all unless he wants to take a jumper.

If anything, Kobe's court vision was the biggest knock on his game last season and every Shaq-less season. Right now he's fortunate that Bynum naturally improved his game and that they signed Fisher, and traded for Pau or else we would be hearing more Kobe wants out of LA rumors; if not traded already.

At 3/03/2008 9:18 PM, Blogger Aaron said...

as many have mentioned, stats dont contain any significant sort of weight in this, though it is regarded, so i might as well. and the word, "Best", "Greatest", etc are all completely ambiguous and defined differently from peer to peer.

However, rather than taking a shot at persuading the public. i'll post the facts, (most of which from 82games.com):

Kobe is a better clutch player. Kobe is a better JUMP shooter (45% compared to Bron's 39%). Kobe is a better defender (5-Time ALL NBA DEFENSIVE TEAM). Kobe is a better free throw shooter.

there, facts are out of the way, now for my opinion piece.
in order for one to be deemed, "Best Player". you have to be exactly that. The "Best" at every aspect of the game. being a huge NBA fan that i am, i've watched and Aww'd at both Kobe and Lebron.

Bron is by far the most gifted and talented athlete to enter the NBA. he's a freak. an experiment gone wrong. he sails to the rim with ease. regardless of who's below him. hes runs the floor like a point guard and is probably only second in speed to Barbosa. The man is amazing.
However, this gift of his alone makes me critical of his game. as, he could make the NBA with only basketball experience from 7th and 8th grade gym class.
due to this fact, he needs to prove more. that he IS a basketball player. and with a 39% jump shot, 70% FT, athletic-secluded defense, he falls far short of "Best" and even being labled as a true basketball player.

Kobe Bryant is really no more athletic than Trevor Ariza. And no faster than your average guard. yet, hes a level beyond all. you can feel Kobe's energy radiate to the couch you sit on, while watching him pick apart every "Anti-Kobe" scheme a coach implements. he can make you pay in every way. showed Sunday, he can hit the 3, drive, pull up for a mid range shot, and lock down the other team's best player (Howard, in this case).

yet, this wasnt his most impressive feet that sunday. the most impressive thing was that after doing his halftime interview, disgusted with his 3-10 FT shooting, he walked down the tunnel to his wife and kids, to kiss each, one by one and came out the second half, shooting 17-17 from FT.
he has the ability to fix and change anything in the game at an instant. this reigns him supreme.
btw, yahoo vote. out of 3643 votes, 56% selected Kobe as this year's MVP. compared to Bron's 31%.

Kobe Bryant is truly the King.

At 3/03/2008 9:31 PM, Blogger rebar said...

to me there is one thing that sets bronbron and kobe apart: where as lebron completely changes the game, kobe is simply the best player in the game. going back to krolik's original analysis, lebron is a god-like force. there is no question about that. however, kobe is like the champion of men. he's the achilles to lebron's aries, the greatest mortal warrior of a generation. in short, kobe vs bron is almost a non-sensical comparison, because bron will never be what kobe is; a mere mortal. whenever i turn on a lakers game, no matter who they're playing, it's immediately evident that kobe is hands down the best player in the game. even on off nights, you can simply tell that he's a psychotic break away from dropping 60 on you.

lebron on the other hand feels like a force of nature, something that projects energy into the very fiber of the game and changes what the result is. granted, he feels natural and spiritual in a way kobe never will, but to me he could never best kobe in a mortal's game.

if bronbron so chooses, he could become the ultimate fusion of man and god, the synthesis to wilt's thesis and kobe's antithesis, and then it would truly be something to watch. simmons (the hated name) mentioned something about how each and every team in the lig ought to start dreading the day when lebron moves past his headband and get serious about it. while i think the headband is a faulty metaphor, i agree that there will come a point where lebron will either become wholly god-like (raw natural power embodied), or he will tame his game to the whims of men. the third option is of course the path of the true basketball savior. for bron to eclipse the heroes of our time, he will need to become not only the ultimate basketball body, but also the ultimate basketball player.

right now, kobe is the best player in the game. lebron is a whole new game.

At 3/03/2008 9:53 PM, Blogger Krolik1157 said...

Aaron-no. You have missed the entire point of the article.


BTW, this is like "Kobe Day" on the internet, as KD just said LeBron was better than Kobe on Ball Don't Lie and has literally thousands of idiotic Kobe fans telling him to resign. It's a travesty, and probably the best argument against people who were born to blog going corporate. His commenters shouldn't be allowed near a keyboard. Rebar hit it on the head-taking LeBron over Kobe requires a new vision of what a perimeter player can and should be, rather than trying to fit everyone in the human mold of Jordan.

At 3/03/2008 9:59 PM, Blogger Krolik1157 said...

Oh, and if you want to flesh out the LeBron metaphors, look at games 5 and 6 of the Pistons series; he completely overpowered them in game 5, and then won the game in game 6 without even needing to shoot; as soon as he touched the ball, he moved mountains and Daniel Gibson was left wide-open; such is the force of a God.

Then San Antonio forced him to shoot jumpers, and when forced to take mortal form, he failed, although it actually helps his case a little that that entire team was just completely outmatched.

Back to Jordan, some guy, I forget the name, made a Ruben Patterson-like declaration that he could shut Jordan down, than Jordan dropped 60 on him. After the game, reporters got in his face about it, and he just said "yeah, but he worked for all of 'em."

Men such as Jordan and possibly Kobe consistently do the impossible, while LeBron, by slicing through 5 people when everyone knew exactly what he was going to do, shifts the notion of impossible altogether.

At 3/03/2008 10:23 PM, Blogger ROME said...

Correction Lebron has the better of the two in field goal percentage - 46% career, 48% this season; Kobe's is 45% career, 46% this season. Lebron is a better rebounder, shot blocker, and assist provider; not to mention Lebron had many games where he was clutch and in defining moments, like when he put Kobe on Lockdown this season or getting his team past different opponents in the playoffs.

Now I agree that the Pistons aren't what they used to be, however they are still a measuring stick for all teams East or West. I guarantee, if the same pistons team right now were in the Western Conference, you'd still see them in the top 3 or 4.

At 3/03/2008 11:09 PM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

Rome: Did you see Kobe when Shaq was hurt in 2003? He completely took over the league that season. People overlook that year, but I think he might have been at his best during that season. His three point shot was flawless back then, and he was so much more explosive off the dribble than he is today.

He had his nine consecutive games of 40+ points that year:


He's been the best player in the league since that season.

Even in 2004 with all of the controversy and against the best defender in the league at that time, Kobe absolutely killed the Spurs and Bruce Bowen:


I could go on and on with this. Search through archives of Kobe's games.


I think people really have short memories. He's been head and shoulders above everyone since 2003, yet people still aren't giving the guy his just do. I'm just glad the Lakers are finally good again so people will start giving him the props he deserves. Yes, Duncan has four rings, and is a spectacular player. But to even say he's been close to the player Kobe has been since 2003 is just ridiculous. Until this season, Kobe had to count on Smush and Kwame Brown to be contributors. Yet his teams were still making the playoffs. Duncan on the other hand has played with some combination of David Robinson, Tony Parker, and Ginobili since that time. And even LeBron has at least had a team that can play defense and rebound with the best of them. Until this season, Kobe Bean has had nothing. Look how well DWade is doing this year with a crappy cast. No talk of him being the best player in the league anymore (I know, he's hurt).

Like Sam Cassell said during last year's playoffs: He might not be MJ, but he definitely is the best we've got right now. That's the sentiment of all of the coaches and players throughout the league.

Don't ge me wrong. LeBron is definitely very close to Kobe right now. He's closer than anyone has been since 2003. Right now Kobe is 1A and LeBron is 1B

I will say that LeBron will eventually be a much better player than Kobe is today. If he becomes even half the jump shooter or post player that Kobe is, he'd be the most unstoppable force in the history of the league. But he hasn't reached that point yet.

At 3/03/2008 11:16 PM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

Also, what aspect of the game does Kobe not at least do somewhat well? He's a good passer, a first team all-league defender, great rebounder from the guard position, great three-point shooter and a great mid-range shooter. His foot work is flawless. His head fakes and rip throughs have defenders totally off guard. He can finish around the rim with both power and finese using either hand. He's solid from the block as well as the mid-post with his back to the basket. And his handles are definitely in the top ten in the league. He can play off the ball and with the ball. Seriously, name a flaw in the kid's game.

At 3/03/2008 11:22 PM, Blogger Marcus said...

It's absurd to say Lebron isn't a true basketball player, that he's nothing but a physical freak. He's a genuinely great passer, perhaps the ultimate basketball skill, but he lacks the teammates who can take full advantage of this.

We see plenty of physical freaks reach the NBA. Their sleek, perfect bodies are useless as the game swirls around them. Occasionally they get an open dunk and jump really high. Lebron is something else.

Kobe is a rather boring player, the animatronic Jordan. He took the perimeter isolation game pioneered by Jordan, a style that almost ruined the NBA in Jordan's wake, and learned every move to perfection. Now he imitates it as the paint-by-numbers sequel to the revolutionary original.

I saw Lebron play in high school, and you could see what the flaws in his game. He was so much bigger than everyone else around him that he was uninterested in developing a power forward type game, it would have been boring. He required a bigger challenge. We'll see whether he can round it all out and truly develop to his full capacities. He's improved every year in the league so far.

I don't know how godlike Bron is in the sense of invulnerable. A 250+ pounder averaging over 40 minutes a game every year in the league while playing a high-intensity perimeter game -- this is totally unprecedented in the history of the sport. He may not have that many years left in his knees. His quickness will go first. Better develop that interior game.

One thing I'll give you about Bron's athletic freakishness, though: he would have been the greatest tight end in NFL history.

At 3/03/2008 11:43 PM, Blogger Seth said...

I have to say that I think Kobe is a better basketball player than LeBron. The point that LeBron might just be a god playing basketball is what resonates most. Hell, I'm a high-schooler who warmed the bench last year, and I see obvious problems in his shot.. why is he shooting 70% from the line?? Is this seriously his one flaw that we just accept, like we accept for shaq?? Come on...I mean, he should be able to find a way to fix it, and i don't have to go into that. then again, i don't know, because in that game 5 vs. detroit, i'm pretty sure he was making his FTs. Just that that was his ridiculous--maybe Herculean but i don't really know what Herculean means--effort. he should make his foul shots all the time, like kobe...then it wouldn't be such a damn big deal.

He out-muscles everyone and guys clear out when he takes off, but he cannot dunk for 100% of the game, and that is also why kobe is better. Kobe is a real basketball player, and he also, importantly, seems to me to be extremely self conscious (3-10 then 17-17). Kobe expresses his emotions and wants to win so damn badly... Bron? I hate to say it, but i don't know how much of his focus is on basketball..hence the problem with his foul shot.

Lebron, when you watch him, does have peaks and valleys. One just sits back and waits to see what Kobe will do. If lebron is only nearing the surface, then how exactly is he going to improve?? If he has a josh-howard type improvement, in which he simply gets better at everything, or if he moves closer to kobe's style of play (strong fundamentals/instinct to go along with his ridiculous physical gifts), then i would say for sure that he would be better than kobe. but if that doesn't happen and his foul shot doesn't work out, he still doesn't change the game much without having the ball, etc...then no, he isn't better.

i love freedarko, and i guess this isn't a very FD comment. but maybe it's just not that much of an FD topic, since the better team is the one that wins the game and, i guess, the better player is therefore the one that wins the game. a cavs-lakers finals would be ORGASMIC, though, especially from an FD point of view (i think style, but it's never ever been defined).

bron bron, sorry to hate on your free-throw shooting.

At 3/04/2008 12:01 AM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

Some slovenly editing and sloppy prose really hamstrung this piece.

Set those dashes off with spaces, my brain doesn't know what an "itself-witness" is supposed to be. Lots of echoing - "different altogether" in the aside, something about the back of the mind in the open, "currently, the man... the current gold standard".

Then you've got compliment where you want complement, which always kills me.

And Jordan lacked dominating physical force? Huh? Dude was 6'6", ran the 40 in 4.2, could jump six volkswagons laid end to end, and was flat stronger than most of his competition. And who was better at changing shots and writhing in air? The man was genetically crafted to play basketball.

This is potentially a very good piece once you fix it.

At 3/04/2008 12:28 AM, Blogger Adam said...

yeah krolik, since freedarko has the new yorker's copy editors on staff you might as well use them.

At 3/04/2008 12:46 AM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

Lebron is cuter, but Kobe is more desirable due to his personality. At least that's how I see it, metaphorically.

At 3/04/2008 12:59 AM, Blogger Krolik1157 said...

@The Other Van Gundy:

Yeah, I shoulda read this one a couple times through before I sent it in, but I'd been up for like 24 hours and it felt good to get it done and go to bed. My Bad.

And Jordan was certainly an incredible athlete (although the 4.2 sounds like a myth to me), but when we talk about dominant physical force we're talking about guys like Kareem, Shaq, Wilt, Russell (whose wingspan and hops were ridiculous for his time), guys who were SO MUCH bigger, faster, or stronger than everyone else they couldn't be played like normal human basketball players. In my opinion, Jordan's athleticism was at the very pinnacle of normal human limits, in keeping with his "human perfection." LeBron's the first physically dominant guy who plays on the perimeter, which is what makes him, as mentioned, different and scary and special.

At 3/04/2008 1:33 AM, Blogger rebar said...

jordan was a badass, but no way he ran a 4.2. he would be an instant NFL draft pick.

darren mcfadden is going to be a professional running back, and he runs a 4.33

At 3/04/2008 1:45 AM, Blogger ROME said...

Ok, I'm up again. First and foremost, that streak of 40 point games in 2003 started with Shaq in the line up, second Shaq only missed three games during that so called streak where Shaq also called Kobe selfish(Which he was). I remember that streak and the only time you saw that ball fall out of Kobe's hand was either going to a defender or headed toward the rim.

Next, I don't know why little stuff such as footwork is so important. To me it's about results and impact. Lebron's impact is much more effective as all it really takes is one move and it's over with. Opposing defenders see Lebron and they scurry out of his way or become posterized.

Kobe's had his moments, but Lebron puts fear in his opponents, Kobe tries to be too graceful.

I've seen Kobe get shut down I lot quicker than Lebron also; especially since he can usually shoot well and he ends up relying on that jump shot a little too much some games as for Lebron he goes to the hole and makes something out of nothing all the time. Creating masterpieces with a squad who always depends on his best night in night out and he's been doing it since 2004.

Please let's not talk about Kobe and San Antonio; Bruce Bowen does a pretty good job at bothering certain players, but when it comes down to it; he's a hack. I've even seen T-Mack scorch him ever game since being a Rocket. I wonder, however, what happened when LA saw the Pistons in 2004 where Tayshaun Prince had Kobe shooting miserable percentages the entire series. The only memorable game Kobe could look back on that series was a three point shot that sent the game into overtime in game two of the Finals. Once they resumed the series in Detroit. It was over, for Kobe and Shaq.

At 3/04/2008 2:18 AM, Blogger ROME said...

Even after the 2004 finals, the Pistons still got back to the finals the following year and Kobe still to this day has never had no more that 1 or 2 good games against the pistons who still spank teams in the Eastern and Western Conference in spite of how many believe that they've lost their edge.

As I said before, all teams know that the Pistons are still an elite team and a formidable opponent. All teams in the league respect the Pistons and play their "A game" or get embarrassed on television; so from that standpoint, the Pistons are a worthy opponent and a very good measuring stick for, not only teams who strive to seriously compete for a title, but for players who aspire to have long lasting and meaningful careers in the NBA as well.

At 3/04/2008 2:28 AM, Blogger ROME said...

With Lebron seeing the Pistons four times a year and in the playoffs he always has a task to fulfill and last year he finally got over the hump. He did something Kobe has never done in getting the Cavs to the Finals by himself.

At 3/04/2008 4:59 AM, Blogger Bill Bridges said...

In 1988/89, MJ averaged 32, 8 and 8 on 54% FG shooting for the 47-35 Bulls. Better numbers than Lebron. The MVP? Magic for the Western Conference Champion Lakers (57-25). IF MJ didn't win in 88, no way Lebron wins in 08.

At 3/04/2008 5:11 AM, Blogger Misareaux said...

@Rome If you're going to take such a combative stance on Kobe, at least try to back it up with true facts, or revert to poor Lebron comparisons without stating them in proper context such as; horrible East, Wizards sans Butler and Zero, shit Bulls, and underachieving Pistons (yes it's true). It's nice that you try so hard, but basing your opinion on facts that you selectively misremember (love this word!) opens you up to all kinds of verbal beatdown.

Direct quotes from 'The Show' by Roland Lazenby

On Kobe's scoring streak, 2003

"After three championships, the personalities took a break in 2003. Yet the team stuggles thoughout its most harmonious season, plagued by injuries to O'Neal and caught in a battle to make the playoffs. Such a situation meant there were few highlights, except perhaps for Bryant's amazing streak...In previous seasons such an outburst might have ruptured the peace...Then again, Jackson had ordered his guard to be more aggressive....'He's on a great run,' Michael Jordan...offered during the streak. 'He's really finding a way to do it within the structure of the offense."

On Lakers-Pistons, Shaq, and the 2004 Playoffs

Tex Winter: "There were times when we played pretty good defense. Defense in pro ball is predicated on the support around the basket, the big man. Even though Shaq was a big presence, he was not a great shot blocker. And he didn't like to play the screen and roll, so he put his teammates in jeopardy. He didn't like to help. He liked to lay back off his man.

"Shaq defeated himself against Detroit. He played way too passively. He had one big game. Outside of that he didn't do much. his boxing out and rebounding in the series was awful. He had one assist in on of the Finals games. He's always been interested in being a scorer, but he hasn't had nearly enough concentration on defense and rebounding."

So you have Malone going down against the Wolves, Payton being abused by the screen and roll because Shaq is just a bit lazy, not to mention Shaq laying a egg for almost the entire 2004 Finals. After shouldering the scoring load the entire playoffs while also taking on the responsibility of stopping the opposing teams best perimeter player, Kobe was gased during the Finals, physically and mentally. It didn't help that he had Prince playing some of the best basketball he's played, ever.

As for little things like footwork...Duncan and Olajuwon.

At 3/04/2008 6:17 AM, Blogger Martin said...

I look at Jordan (the only player that I can whole-heartedly concede was indeed a basketball god-in-the-flesh) as the intersection between the contrasting abilities of Lebron and Kobe. Before his first retirement, Jordan was an athletic freak! Most of Jordan's highlights during that time were primarily athletic marvels of a Jordan that is closely resembled a mythical DWade/Lebron hybrid- simply faster than his defenders, a higher jumper, can stop on a dime, is stronger and has better control of his body in the air. Even Jordan's feats of skill such as the buzzer beater over Ehlo were driven by his athleticism. If you watch the highlight carefully you will see Jordan leaping much higher than Ehlo, then seemingly hanging in the air for eternity there long after Ehlo has fallen back to earth- leaving Jordan with what is essentially an uncontested 15 foot jumper.

Although Jordan came back from his first retirement in 1995- AIR JORDAN had retired for good. The new Michael depended on skill, post-play, patience, savvy, ball-fakes and dead-eye jump shooting- skills that Kobe has mimicked to perfection so thoroughly they betray Kobe's discomfiting obsession with being like MJ.

Whereas Kobe's ceiling probably lies in following the path of Jordan's legacy, as some has alluded- Lebron can change all that we thought is possible in basketball. Lebron has the chance to do what MJ never did- harnessing the body and the mind (skill) at the same time rather than in two different eras. Someone pointed out something that is almost comically true- that Kobe is not much more athletic than Trevor Ariza. Kobe’s spectacular drives that end with a dunk in traffic come from his well refined hesitation moves, sleight of hand and impeccable timing, Kobe knows exactly when jump and exactly when to throw the ball down to avoid the shot blocking defenders hand- this is contrasted to Lebron's power drives like recently against CHI when Lebron was for all intents and purposes, ABOVE THE FUCKING RIM glaring down at the scurrying mortals fleeing in terror and posterized hysteria.

At 3/04/2008 10:18 AM, Blogger Marcus said...

Although Jordan came back from his first retirement in 1995- AIR JORDAN had retired for good. The new Michael depended on skill, post-play, patience, savvy, ball-fakes and dead-eye jump shooting- skills that Kobe has mimicked to perfection so thoroughly they betray Kobe's discomfiting obsession with being like MJ.

EXACTLY. Pre-retirement, Jordan was a total dominating athletic freak, every bit as godlike as Lebron (although he was Mercury to Lebron's Zeus). He was a knife and everyone else was butter.

After the comeback, Jordan started to cannily manipulate the rules, the game, and the refs to ruthlessly maintain his hegemony even as he gradually lost his physical dominance. It's that, inferior Jordan that Kobe is imitating. It's also that Jordan that helped send the game into a long tailspin that it is only now recovering from.

At 3/04/2008 10:22 AM, Blogger Marcus said...

Also, Kobe is not nearly as good a jump shooter or as effective an offensive player as the early post-retirement Jordan was. Kobe is a 46% shooter. MJ never shot that low a percentage until his final year with Chicago, when he was definitively human. Compared to MJ, Kobe is an inefficient volume shooter, like AI. We are blinded to Kobe's flaws by our MJ obsession.

At 3/04/2008 11:25 AM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

Sorry Y'all, but post 95 Jordan was not doing this type shit:


But I will agree with you in that Kobe today and the post 95 Jordan were the two most technically gifted players of the last twenty five years. They had every aspect of the game mastered. You could possibly say that Jordan could have been a better three point shooter and Kobe could be a better post player. But outside of that...

Also, I really tend to think I would take the post 95 Jordan over the 84-90 Jordan. For me it's a draw between the 91-93 Jordan the 95-98 Jordan. But I really was fond of the 95-98 Jordan. He just understood the game of basketball better than anyone else. Just a master technician.


IMO I think Kobe is a hybrid of Jordan from 90-93 and Jordan post 95.

LeBron is definitely in his Jordan pre-90-91 phase right now. Not to say that isn't great. But he just is not the best yet.

At 3/04/2008 11:38 AM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Misareaux said... "@Rome If you're going to take such a combative stance on Kobe, at least try to back it up with true facts"

Don't even bother with that guy, he's just talking out his ass and making things up as he goes. His statements are riddled with nonsense and things that are just wrong. His most telling statement was this: "I don't know why little stuff such as footwork is so important." That should tell you all you need to know about him and why it's a waste of time to try to make a case with him.

What is often the problem with these Kobe v. LeBron discussions most places online is that Kobe himself is such a divisive character: many people tend to either obsessively love him or obsessively hate him, and as such will debate with fervent nonsense to make their case for or against him. The people who love Kobe want to rip LeBron because they hate the idea that there's even a discussion that someone might be better, while the people who hate Kobe want to elevate LeBron above where he really is just to ensure he's above Kobe.

There is no way to know who is better, and even when their teams play head-to-head it doesn't answer that question because of all the other players involved. There's a lot of good discussion in this thread with people not leaning too far in one direction or the other due to personal biases for or against one player or the other. IMO the best comments are generally the ones that discuss how the two players are different from each other without saying which one is better. Overall this thread is one of the most intelligent Kobe v. LeBron threads I've ever read. It's posts and comments like these that are the reason I come here :)

At 3/04/2008 11:43 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...


At 3/04/2008 12:38 PM, Blogger Mercurialblonde said...

Lebron and Kobe as Obama and Clinton. Hope vs. Fear and a knowledge of the game.

In the end, like it or not, Lebron is passing Kobe. Whether you think he's done or not yet is irrelevant. Soon it will be undeniable.

The Cavs have a ton of expiring contracts this summer. Enough to get a Gasol deal. We're on the cusp. Last year's run for the finals, was confounding because Lebron wasn't ready to be in the finals. But yet he was there. We keep trying to put him in rubrics and we need to just acknowledge he is his own being. It makes no sense to compare him and Kobe. Kobe is still playing basketball as we know it. Lebron is playing a game of his own design. And now that he's become a defensive monster...There's something lurking in the back of this kid's mind which the media hasn't yet realized. He's setting up the pieces. He's making meetings with Buffet and Jay-Z. He's playing on Team USA every summer. Learning to speak Mandarin.

It's interesting that he's already matching Kobe right now. But the significance of the overarching plan seems to make the whole comparison silly.

Lebron is Jordan in 88-89. Behind his Magic and Bird(Duncan/Kobe). 30/8/8. Getting better every year in the playoffs.

We are very close to the take over. Very close.

At 3/04/2008 2:34 PM, Blogger ROME said...

@ misareaux & @ wild yams

How dare you come on here and talk about facts and show me nonsense garbage of statements of people who make excuses for Kobe Bryant and then even Shaq's sorry performance in the 2004 Finals against the Pistons. Even when Shaq came to Miami, he was denied by those same Pistons. Face it Ben Wallace was Shaq's nemesis when it came to a 7 game series showdown in 2004 and 2005.

Your little so-called verbal beatdown has no substance to it what so ever,just minor opinions. I've been battling Kobe supporters on here with better facts than what you both have presented.

At 3/04/2008 2:54 PM, Blogger ROME said...

"After shouldering the scoring load the entire playoffs while also taking on the responsibility of stopping the opposing teams best perimeter player, Kobe was gased during the Finals, physically and mentally."
Ok, this is an EXCUSE for sorriness in the Finals.

"It didn't help that he had Prince playing some of the best basketball he's played, ever."
For your information Tayshaun has always been a defensive horse since he had to guard T-Mac in the postseason and offensively gave what he always give every game.

If you want a Lebron comparison with substance, how about him beating the Lakers twice this season. Putting Kobe on lockdown to do it too (In the fourth quarter).

At 3/04/2008 3:08 PM, Blogger ROME said...

@ Wild Yams

Oh, and you heard it from me. Kobe has never gotten passed a team as good as the Pistons in a 7 game series being the only superstar; unlike Lebron.

At 3/04/2008 3:10 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

You people are boring the living shit out of me.

At 3/04/2008 3:11 PM, Blogger The wondering Mind said...


Give it a rest. Your arguments are nonsensical and your style is primitive, intimidation will not work here. The facts are

1. Lebron Plays in a drastically weaker conference.

2. Lebron's team is not the one of the 10 best teams in the NBA this season the Lakers are. The Cavs are not even a top three team in the East.

3. Lebron's stats are padded by the composition of his team and their style of play. Every play invariably involves Lebron, if Lebron played for PHX, his numbers would be very different.

4. What Lebron did on the playoffs last season has very little to do with this season. If you most go down that road, a comparison of resumes between Lebron and Kobe would leave Lebron completely embarrassed. At 23 Kobe was a world champion.

I could go on but my point is this, please stop hugging the blog space you hardly have an irrefutable argument.

At 3/04/2008 3:30 PM, Blogger Mercurialblonde said...

Are statistical based arguments, Freedarko?

Is conference disparity FreeDarko?

Is it more FreeDarko that Lebron plays in the weaker conference? What is the significance of a messiah from cleveland?

Is there some cosmic balancing act?

Does Kobe really have anything to do with Lebron and vice versa?

At 3/04/2008 3:43 PM, Blogger ROME said...

@ Wondering Mind

My argument is based off of me paying attention to the two players and how they achieve results with whichever team they're with when it matters.

The fact is not every team in the East is weak, and Lebron still plays teams in the West as do all the teams in the East.

Secondly, the Cavs are defending Eastern Conference Champions, so they will make the playoffs and as the season progresses they will move up in the standings (not like it really matters; once the playoffs get here it's a whole new season)

Third, Lebron played in this years AllStar game and did great amongst the Stars, didn't he? Please, he would be a DOG in Phoenix.

Lastly, Lebron is beating out every statistical record that Kobe has and is putting up as we type. Other than the rings, there is nothing embarrassing that Kobe is doing to Lebron.

So please, go on if you wish.

At 3/04/2008 4:02 PM, Blogger ROME said...

To: Bethlehem Shoals

Sorry for bothering you, that'll my last comment about that.

At 3/04/2008 4:25 PM, Blogger Misareaux said...

If Lebron is a god compared to the mortal Kobe, his undoing will come from divine arrogance. When his physical gifts start to decline, we'll then see how great he truly is. He literally does everything for his team, but you saw what happened to an older Kobe the last few years when the onus was on him to be offensive threat 1-3.

Lebron is younger, but has more punishment on his body because of the way he was allowed to play since he entered the NBA. And if his body does deteriorate because of this, is Lebron akin to Cronus who ruled over the Golden Age, or Uranus, holding back the players who ignored the development of their skills in pursuit of the ideal physique. And in holding back the next generation of basketball players, will the 'game' favor these players as Gaia did the Titans and give them the tools to bring about Lebron's downfall by exploiting his nearsightedness?

At 3/04/2008 4:29 PM, Blogger The wondering Mind said...

Rome, this is the last time i will do this.

"My argument is based off of me paying attention to the two players and how they achieve results with whichever team they're with when it matters." - AS OPPOSED TO WHAT? THE PEOPLE WHO LISTEN TO THE GAMES ON THE RADIO?

"The fact is not every team in the East is weak, and Lebron still plays teams in the West as do all the teams in the East". - YES, LEBRON WILL PLAY 52 GAMES IN A CONFERENCE WHERE 5 TEAMS HAVE A WINNING RECORD THIS YEAR AND KOBE WILL PLAY 52 GAMES IN A CONFERENCE WHERE 10 TEAMS HAVE A WINNING RECORD.

Secondly, the Cavs are defending Eastern Conference Champions, so they will make the playoffs and as the season progresses they will move up in the standings (not like it really matters; once the playoffs get here it's a whole new season)- THE CAVS WILL MAKE THE PLAYOFFS BECAUSE THE EAST IS WEAK NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE DEFENDING CHAMPIONS, EVERYTHING ELSE YOU WROTE IS SPECULATION. WHAT IF I SAY THEY WILL NOT MOVE UP THE STANDING? NEITHER OF US HAVE ANY PROOF.

Third, Lebron played in this years AllStar game and did great amongst the Stars, didn't he? Please, he would be a DOG in Phoenix. - SORRY I DID NOT KNOW THE ALL STAR GAME WAS PART OF THE SEASON, I WONDER IF WE SHOULD MARK IT AS A WIN OR A LOSS FOR CLEVELAND?

Lastly, Lebron is beating out every statistical record that Kobe has and is putting up as we type. Other than the rings, there is nothing embarrassing that Kobe is doing to Lebron. - OTHER THAN THE RINGS, THERE IS NO REASON TO HAVE A NATIONAL BASKETBALL LEAGUE. WITHOUT THE RINGS THEY WOULD ALL BE PLAYING AT THE RUCKER FOR CASH.

So please, go on if you wish. - NAH SON, I AM THROUGH, THE FLOOR IS YOURS, RANT ON.

At 3/04/2008 5:39 PM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

Just wanted to follow up on my Jordan 40 comment. I was referencing from memory a page from Playing for Keeps. Here's the actual quote:
[Context: 1982 in chapel hill] "The previous year, he had run the forty-yard sprint in 4.55, which was very good. The coaches who were clocking him this year compared their watches... they decided to log it as 4.39" (98)

So, off my .19 of a second. My mistake.

At 3/04/2008 5:40 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Not much else to add to what I said earlier about that ROME guy (why even debate someone who doesn't care if he gets his "facts" straight?), but to Shoals and the assertion that CP3 is the best player in the league, don't you think we should see how he does in his first playoff game before we jump that gun? If some people think LeBron's still got a lot left to show in the playoffs to be in this conversation, then Paul has everything left to show us.

A guy who's never played in a Finals game shouldn't win back to back MVPs (Nash), and a guy who has yet to play his first playoff game shouldn't win the MVP trophy either. This is not to say I have any doubts about Paul's potential or what he's done this season, but none of us have yet seen how he holds up under pressure, and IMO that's a seriously key thing to factor in when having a discussion about the league's best.

Losing twice to the Wizards in a week isn't helping his case either, especially when his team is developing a reputation for fading down the stretch year after year, whether that reputation is truly deserved or not.

At 3/04/2008 9:30 PM, Blogger Seth said...

@ yams: I thought the MVP was a regular-season award. See Nowitzki last year, winning it for his regular-season performance even though his team was upset in the first round. The NBA even waited a long time (longer than usual, at least) to give it to him because of the sting of the loss. I guess that doesn't really matter, but the fact that CP3 hasn't given us any clutch playoff performances yet shouldn't mean a single thing in the mvp voting. It's regular-season mvp.
I think I've made my little clarification. Playoff experience should not, or does not matter for regular season awards voting. I have no idea if CP3 is the best player in the league.. I haven't seen enough of him really, but I wish he was on my fantasy team.

And baron davis is having an orgasmic night for my team tonight. Started out 11-13 and ended 16-25, but STILL. joe johnson is having an equally orgasmic night for my other fantasy team, but he is not quite as FD of a player, or as interesting. (synonyms??)

At 3/04/2008 11:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the first time that I can remember, the FD comments section resembles the ESPN.com boards. Rome et. al-- please. Isn't the whole point of this article that Kobe and Bron are incomparable? Like that post from a few months ago, which I am not going to dig through the archives and find, which showed how Kobe's greatness is rooted in practice and skill and Lebron's is more athletic, carnal, and "godlike." The post articulated it a lot more clearly, but the basic point is NEITHER ONE IS BETTER. THEY ARE DIFFERENT.


At 3/04/2008 11:21 PM, Blogger Krolik1157 said...

Thank you.

At 3/04/2008 11:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



is the post I was talking about.


"Figure 2: "There are two paths to the pinnacle, which Kobe and LeBron have reached."

Which is kind of Krolik's point, except that he puts Kobe a little bit ahead FOR THE MOMENT.

At 3/05/2008 12:21 AM, Blogger Zeke said...

"...Kobe can lock down the other team's best player (Josh Howard, in this case."

Why in the fuck does anybody think Josh Howard is the Mavs' best player? If your argument is that Dirk isn't "clutch" enough, Josh is not above him in that department. Josh is a fine player and a borderline All-Star, but he's not their best player. He doesn't cause the matchup problems that Dirk does, and when teams gameplan Dallas, they start with Dirk and work from there. Stupid statement.

At 3/05/2008 1:37 AM, Blogger The Electric Zarko said...

B-Diddy had a nice game; however, this game, as a microcosm of this season, works very well for proving that the player who is the locus of that team is S-Jax. Having him come to the Town is like the mountain and Muhammad, I don't know which being which.

wv: jnjhxn jump 'n Jax, HeXeN

At 3/05/2008 10:09 AM, Blogger T. said...

I think what Gerald and krolik have said can be summed up like this:

Kobe is the knife

LeBron is the hammer

They both hurt like hell.

(I haven't name dropped in a long time, and I think I even told this story on the comment section before, but a couple of NBA All-Stars were having an argument about which player was better and I was present for this argument in the summer of 2002. - in this case McGrady and Kobe. One player (let's call him KG) said he'd take Mac because he gives you everything Kobe does, but he's a little bit taller/a little bit longer - and most of the van agreed with him. The other all-star (let's call him CB) said look - Mac is nice and all, but none of y'all have to guard these guys. I do, and let me tell you something . . .Kobe's cold.

I think CB's argument still holds sway.

For another opinion, Houston's Shane Battier in his chat yesterday:

tony: Who is the toughest person that you have guarded in your career?

Shane_Battier: Kobe. He's good.

At 3/05/2008 10:39 AM, Blogger NoahC said...

I respectfully disagree that we have never seen a wing like LeBronson. I submit that Magic Johnson was equally physically gifted as LeBron.

They have pretty much the same frame (Magic was 6'9" and 230). Remember, in Magic's rookie year, game 7 of the Finals, he played center when Kareem went down with an ankle injury. His line from that game? 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Game 7. Rookie year. Finals. PLAYING CENTER. FOR INJURED KAREEM.

The difference between Magic's game and Bron's game was, in my humble opinion, the Jordan effect. Jordan totally changed the dynamic in the league as he ascended to his throne. His raw physical prowess coupled with his success on the hardwood was so impressive that he truly influenced developing players into developing similar attributes.

Magic only lacked the desire to channel his athleticism as LeBron has. But LeBron had different teachers in a different era.

At 3/05/2008 12:45 PM, Blogger Kaifa said...

T., nice anecdote. And remember, the 2002 T-Mac was the Orlando Magic incarnation, probably the most intimidating of all the T-Macs.

Also, am I the only one thinking that Artest is the only one with a chance to be the LeBron antidote? His combination of speed and size matches up the best, plus he makes an impressive villain opposite to Cleveland's superhero.

At 3/05/2008 12:46 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

I know this discussion is already old and tired, but I wanted to compare the current LeBron vs. Kobe for MVP debate to what was probably a quite similar debate in the late 80s: Magic vs. Jordan for MVP, specifically in the 1986-87, 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons. Look at the players' individual stats in those three seasons:

Jordan - 37.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.6 apg, 2.9 spg, 1.52 bpg
Magic - 23.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 12.2 apg, 1.7 spg, .5 bpg

Jordan - 32.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 8.0 apg, 2.9 spg, .8 bpg
Magic - 22.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 12.8 apg, 1.8 spg, .3 bpg

Jordan - 33.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 6.3 apg, 2.8 spg. .7 bpg
Magic - 22.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 11.5 apg, 1.7 spg, .4 bpg

In all three years you could definitely make the case that Jordan had the better individual performance (he always had more points, steals and blocks, and twice had more rebounds than Magic did, with Magic always having more assists), yet Magic won the MVP in all three of these years, no doubt due to the different records these teams had. In 1987 the Bulls were 40-42 while the Lakers were 65-17, in 1989 the Bulls were 47-35 while the Lakers were 57-25 and in 1990 the Bulls were 55-27 while the Lakers were 63-19. Magic's previous success in the playoffs alongside the league's best center compared to Jordan's limited playoff resume at the time may have also played a part.

However, both the teams' records and the playoff disparity were largely due to the teammates that the two players had. While Magic had Kareem, Worthy, Byron Scott & Michael Cooper in 1987, Jordan had a rotating starting lineup which featured Charles Oakley, John Paxon, Dave Corzine, Brad Sellers, Gene Banks, Granville Waiters & Earl Cureton. In 1989 the Lakers featured virtually the same loaded lineup while the Bulls had upgraded a bit with 2nd year players Scottie Pippen & Horace Grant instead of Charles Oakley & Gene Banks, as well as starting Bill Cartwright and Sam Vincent instead of John Paxon and Brad Sellers. By 1990 the Bulls had the young core in place that would win 3 titles in the next 4 years and the record disparity was only 8 games different between the Bulls and Lakers.

Looking back at the Magic vs. Michael comparison in the late 80s I can't help but think of how it correlates to Kobe vs. LeBron (despite the fact that Kobe's game is more like Jordan's and LeBron's is closer to Magic's game than Kobe is). To me LeBron looks like the younger player who is arguably the better player already, and who will most likely ultimately be remembered as the better player provided he has any kind of playoff success throughout his career (i.e. a couple rings). He's maybe somewhat maligned in the current debate between himself and Kobe because he hasn't proven himself in the playoffs as much and because his teammates are nowhere near as good so his team's record is relatively bad compared to the Lakers.

Kobe, on the other hand, may not be putting together as good an individual season, but is perceived to be putting together a better "team season" because his team is vying for the #1 seed in the tougher Western Conference and is considered an elite team or title contender. In addition, much like Magic in 1987 (the year he won his first MVP), Kobe is arguably the game's most complete player on arguably the league's best team; and he has never received the MVP award because for the early part of his career he was considered the 2nd best player on a number of championship teams due to being paired with the league's best center, and then for being overshadowed by the best player on another team that won more games than his team (Nash twice, then Dirk, instead of Bird with Magic).

Like Magic in 1987, Kobe deserves to win his first MVP award, and not just because his teammates are better. Kobe is putting up a season individually which is good enough to at least be in the same conversation with what LeBron is doing, and Kobe is doing it on a team that's making a real run at a title (while LeBron almost surely is not). Also like the late 80s Magic, one gets the sense that even if Kobe wins the MVP this year, or even if he wins a few in the next few years, LeBron stands a good chance of finishing his career with more MVP awards and maybe even more titles.

By the summer of 1987 Magic had 1 MVP trophy and 4 NBA titles while Jordan had no MVPs and no titles, and look how both players finished up (Magic with 3 MVPs and 5 rings, Jordan with 5 MVPs and 6 rings). If Kobe wins the MVP this year and the Lakers win the title Kobe will have 1 MVP award and 4 rings while LeBron will have none of either. Could history repeat itself?

After all, in 1988 Jordan won his first of five MVP awards despite the fact that both Magic and Michael put up comparable individual seasons to the 3 listed above, and despite the fact that the Lakers were the reigning world champs (and would repeat again that year) and had the league's best record at 62-20 while the Bulls were 50-32 and only finished with the 4th seed in the East.

At 3/05/2008 3:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At 3/03/2008 9:18 PM, Blogger Aaron said...
"However, rather than taking a shot at persuading the public. i'll post the facts, (most of which from 82games.com):"

Facts eh? Let's see then...

"Kobe is a better clutch player."

Ah, which 82games.com is this? The one I go to says LeBron is CLEARLY the better clutch performer. Funny how lies can catch the weak and sway them, which is usually what Kobe fans rely on to defend his being best. You can find that truth here:

Notice the Rebounding and assist numbers stay about the same for LeBron, meaning better than Kobe. But really notice the blocks and steals numbers, LeBron is RIDICULOUS at those in the clutch. Also, LeBron's turnovers drop, Kobe's go WAY up. Yeah, if clutch is fumbling the ball away at crucial moments, Kobe is the King.

At 3/06/2008 1:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just find it funny how eveyone find ways to make LBJ better than he really is. i just don't see where this "unlimited potential" thing i hear plan on cmoming into play. he personally feel that the james we're "witnessing" today is the one we'll see for years to come....RAW. also i don't see where we compare a 10 yr vet to a 4 yr. if we put it in contrast kobe was BETTER than LBJ on both sides of the ball in his fourth year.

if you're gonna compare lebron to anyone, why don't you start with his rookie class first? save the kobe comparsions to after their careers are both over. kobe withstood the test of time against MANY superstar comparisons throughout his career(vince carter, t-mac, A.I.) and he's still the golden standard. wade, melo, and james can battle each other out, before i can place them in that caliber.

At 3/08/2008 11:43 AM, Blogger sauld420 said...

Right now...LeBron James is the better basketball player. Kobe is w/o question the most skilled player in the league. A big reason why people say hes the best is because of all the array of different things he can do. Also they will down Bron saying 'hes only good because hes athletic." Well no s**t. His body and athleticism is the reason he is the best player in the league. The array of nice flashy moves and heady vet plays and pull up j's....Kobe NEEDS them to be as great a player as he is. LeBron doesnt. He doesnt need a midrange game, he doesnt need a post up game. When most people compare LBJ and Kobe they compare LeBron to what LBJ COULD be. When comparing someone as talented as that to themselves its easy to see why he would come up short. He can never live up to what your minds eye thinks he (or you) could do with that kind of ability. So he'll always have that working against him. Instead of looking at what he cant do look at what he can...he is the strongest and fastest player in the league. Because of that he is able to get to the rim and finish over anyone. He is UNSTOPPABLE going to the rim. Is Kobe unstoppable doing anything? My point for simple minded individuals is, the best argument against LeBron is that hes a one trick pony. But has anyone been able to stop that one trick? Theres not much need to vary your game if NOBODY has an answer for the best part of your game. Kobe developed a post game because he HAD to. Jordan developed the fadeaway because he HAD to. I dont know why people think Kobe is a better shooter than Jordan. Kobe just has to shoot more from the outside to be effective. Jordan didnt shoot 3's because he didnt have to to still be effective. Kobe was never even close as good as going to the rim as Jordan was and as LeBron is.
The year Wilt avg 50 pts a game the lane was 2ft skinnier. Wilt could stand on the block turn around and jump hook it into the rim. And no one could challenge the shot. And he was so close he could make it almost every time. That was an unstoppable move. So much so the they made the lane wider to what it is today. But the point is, if no one could stop that one move, why go to anything else. If Wilt had played under the media scrutiny of today fans would be saying Wilt needs to develop a midrange game or work on passing out the double or some ridiculous bs like that.
I watch Kobe a lot being a Lakers fan and he is w/o a doubt the hardest working player in the game. But LeBron is so much more physically gifted its easier for him to dominate. Kobe can dominate as well as a lot of other NBA players but but none of them can do it with the effortlessness or the relative simplicity of which LeBron does it. Night in and night out. With no other teamate even remotely good enough to be able to take pressure off of him like Kobe has with Odom and Gasol.
Kobe is awesome but what seperates LeBron from him and everyone else in the league and maybe anyone thats ever played is he is so much more physically dominant. Than anyone. For someone to dissmiss that would show your lack of understanding about sports or your sub-conscious biases for or against things. Physicality is the most important part of sports so to dismiss it in the Kobe LeBron debate is completely missing the point.
The best high school bball player i ever seen was Vince Carter. He was so much more gifted athletically than anyone, had a game where he scored 30+ had 15 boards and 17 blocks. He didnt have a developed game, he was just a beast dominating with athleticism. Vince Carter at one point was the best athlete in the NBA.
LeBron is doing to people in the NBA what VC used to do to people in high school. Physically dominate them. LeBron is such a great athlete he is physically dominating the best athletes in the world and making them look like children. That in an of its self is something to marvel at. LeBron vs. Kobe is such a short sighted debate. 2 years people will be wondering why we were ever debating it. LeBron has the chance to be the best athlete to ever walk to the planet.

At 3/09/2008 3:40 AM, Blogger Brit-brit said...


Try this link http://www.respectkobe.com and open your mind because you clearly got your facts wrong and you don't have to put Kobe's game in question to make Lebron look great. Lebron is ok I don't even too much like his game for the simple fact that he is scoring the exact same way Kobe has been scoring for a couple of seasons and when everyone was on Kobe's back saying how selfish he was for scoring and carrying his team to wins in the WEST, Noone is on Lebrons back and complaining about the way he scores and carries his team in the weak EAST...Really try to re-read this and get a clear understanding of what I'm trying to say. Kobe is the man and I just wish ya'll HATERS would give credit where credit is due. If Kobe didn't get MVP when he was torching the west up in scoring then Lebron definatly shouldn't get MVP when he's torching the East up??? Just think about that for a second.

At 3/22/2013 6:02 PM, Blogger Jim Philips said...

Age doesn't wait anyone. O. J. Simpsons looks quite old. It is interesting to check back to all those player when we were kids to check how age has affect them. I should recommend that kind of post at Host Pay Per Head community.


Post a Comment

<< Home