1.10.2009

Bites Eat Everything



The more I watch LeBron this season, the more perplexed I am by Kobe Bryant. Last month, I said that LeBron + Kobe = MJ, which of course assumes that Jordan is monolithic, or that the various phases of his career (worth talking about) don't in some ways embody opposites, or at least contradictions, when placed side-by-side. In February, one of the great forgotten FD diagram orgies posited Bron and Bryant as opposites themselves, though complementary in the NBA universe. Now, as LeBron's dominance becomes at once more fluid and rational, I keep thinking of the autism scale, a metaphor that inevitably posits Tim Duncan. A performance like LeBron's thrashing of the Celtics last night was, at both ends of the floor, consummate. You couldn't hope for a better synthesis of form and function, style and substance, physical gifts and basketball acumen. It's that stretching of possibility we've always marvelled at in LeBron, except this year, this night, he not only reached those limits—he kept on extending them.



Diagram by Tom Ziller, 2009

Incidentally, Kobe himself happened to be putting up similar numbers against the unknown Pacers, except with a higher assists total. But as LeBron consolidates two worlds, Kobe seems, almost by contrast, cleaved in two. No doubt he's still the more fiery player, almost to a fault. And at the same time, his game has also grown more and more cooly technical, through hours of study, gym work, and a strangely competitive approach to the concept of the encyclopedic knowledge. He's one of those particles, nameless so as to avoid unnecessary pretension, who now stands on either side of James. Still not sure if he's growing apart from himself, James is cleaving him in two, or, building on the MVP and further toning down his play, Kobe himself is moving toward the same center as LeBron. One thing's for certain: As of right now, LeBron's play casts Kobe in an entirely new light. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that Kobe is mortal. He pushes himself, not the laws of what's possible. His vocabulary is all that basketball has to offer, not the possibility of total transcendence and reinvention of those parameters. Don't get me wrong, the Lakers' finest remains larger-than-life, but it's not the same as LeBron's ability to make us rethink what might happen on the court.

And here's where we return to Jordan. Was he mortal? If you look at his career arc, it seems to be that of a man who got more mortal as he matured into a champion. There's a possibly depressing parable for you, and one that bodes well for Kobe's continued relevence. However, I also wonder if James's genius might be that he's managed to buck that narrative. His ascent will require no such humility, or reining in of his messianic instinct (see also Dr. J, Black Jesus, for other examples of the usual trajectory). If anything, for LeBron James actualization only engenders more potential. At this point, as each game unfolds, they occur simultaneously. That's truly frightening, but it's also a message of hope. If just this once, a player can make changing the game and winning it absolutely inseparable pursuits. From a strategic standpoint, it's all too brilliant, and so seamless you might not even notice what a radical notion it is.



(Obvious, I know, but I'm willing to stake that cred on this occasion.)

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125 Comments:

At 1/10/2009 10:37 AM, Blogger themarkpike said...

I was at the Celtics vs. Cavs game last evening. LeBron was dominant. The Cavs are extremely self-aware.

In the 4th quarter, the Celtics employed a hack-a-Ben-Wallace foul scheme in an effort to get more possessions and cut the lead (much to the audible displeasure of the crowd).

LBJ noticed Wallace was about to get fouled away from the ball, and he appeared as annoyed as the fans, so he tossed up a jumper from a few feet inside of mid-court as the shot would officially count if it was simultaneous or just prior to the foul. It went in, but the refs didn't count it.

Point taken.

Celtics looked terrible. Pierce appeared frazzled, and the ESPN interviews indicated that he acknowledged he was at a complete disadvantage before the game even began.

 
At 1/10/2009 10:39 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

This game (and MP's last observation) also vindicate my distaste for the "epic duel" between Pierce and James in Game 7 of last year's Conference Finals, which was just a bunch of iso jumpers.

WV: purefan=DON'T DARE ARGUE WITH THIS POINT

 
At 1/10/2009 12:36 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

I don't get it....Yet(?).

To me, LeBron hasn't done anything yet to definitively prove that his career or his career path has been or will be better than Kobe's.

Playing with Shaq was an advantage/disadvantage, but looking at the past six years, there's nothing pointing towards LBJ superiority, other than people's need to find a reason for his coronation, which coincides with the need to find fault with Kobe's.

Kobe has been where LeBron is going. Matter of fact, he's still there.

Kobe still gets more votes than him in the All-Star Game, and the Hurache2K4 and Hyperdunks (2 Kobe shoes) are some of Nike's most popular sneakers to date not branded with the Jumpman. How much of a global icon is LeBron really?

LeBron is great. I agree, and he is coming. But let him get there first. Matter of fact, it's too bad it has to be either/or.

Don't let me get started with D-Wade.

 
At 1/10/2009 12:39 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 1/10/2009 12:42 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

All of a sudden reality is restored and KG, PP, and Ray Allen have reverted to pre "Big 3" days, along with their bench guys, and Doc.

Everyone is surprised at their demise. I found it inevitable.

 
At 1/10/2009 12:45 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

That was pre-Big 3 KG/Pierce/Allen?

 
At 1/10/2009 12:57 PM, Blogger flyE said...

Interesting comparison between the two best players in the game today. I wondered during the summer Olympics if some of Kobe's advantages -- defensive awareness, mid-range jumpshot, offcourt preparation, Indomitable Will -- would start to rub off on Lebron. Who knows the mechanism, but we're certainly seeing the results as if that were true.

No comparison between these two would be complete without looking at Lebron's advantages in size and age. At 6'8" and, what, 265? 270? Lebron reminds me of some standout small-high-school running back who is as big as the other team's defensive end, and can choose to run around or over him as the mood strikes. Witness the play in the second half last night where Leon Powe (6'8" 240) tries to help on a drive, but the brush-by contact disrupts Lebron not at all and sends Powe flying back into the lane. Even Perkins only has two inches and 10 pounds on Lebron, and he's the starting center.

At 30 years old, we know what type of player Kobe is and can be. He's in his prime, and continues to refine the game he's developed over his career, but there are no future surprises forthcoming (although his 3-point range keeps creeping out -- when he's 34 will he be shooting regularly from 30 feet?) Whereas Lebron's "stretching of possibility" is vastly magnified by the fact that he's at least a half-decade shy of his prime. He's already unstoppable, so what will we call him once he adds a reliable mid-range jumper? And at 24, he has the potential to get even bigger; imagine Clyde Drexler if he were the size of Karl Malone.

One final note: Lebron's game last night shows how useless the "assist" stat can be. He may not always make the pass that leads directly to a basket, but his Gravity warps the defenses in such a way that nearly every offensive advantage the Cavs get is at least partially attributable to his presence on the court.

 
At 1/10/2009 1:01 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

I mean whatever has happened to the Celtics looks like a lot like when KG was with the Wolves, Allen with the Bucks, etc.

No one is stepping up when it matters and willing the team to win. When they were faced with adversity in their previous roles, their teams got worse, not better. Here is adversity and every game looks worse. There was no adversity last year. This is new, and they don't know what to do.

From the "Big 3" to Doc and the young guys who went on that 18 game losing streak.

 
At 1/10/2009 1:04 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

FlyE,

Did you see LBJ try to post up one play? That's what I've been waiting for. If that is consistent, oh boy!

The unknown with LeBron is scary, but why has it taken so long for James to work at adding to his game?

 
At 1/10/2009 1:27 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

Bethlehem,

There's a more apt chemistry metaphor to explain your (in my opinion accurate) comparison of LBJ and Kobe. If you wiki "atomic orbitals" you will see that LBJ is an S orbital and Kobe a "p" orbital on your Tyrus/Duncan scale.

Enjoyed the read...

 
At 1/10/2009 1:35 PM, Blogger flyE said...

wondahbap,

For one thing, he's only 24. But your point is taken, and I think the olympics had a lot to do with Lebron's improvement this year.

After last night's game he called out Nate McMillan as a coaching influence on his defense, but also there's something about being a standout on the best collection of players since the Dream Team (I refuse to use that appellation on any subsequent squads) that kicked his confidence level up a notch or three. Pace Kobe admonishing Pau during halftime of the Christmas game, "you're one of the best players in the world."

I also have to wonder how much the "Lebron and Wade were the best players, but they needed Kobe in the clutch" meme has stuck in Lebron's craw. Hard to say, but I don't think Lebron has that Assassin's Spirit... yet.

 
At 1/10/2009 1:42 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

The point about Lebron's size being so superior to Kobe's (and, combined with his speed and coordination, perhaps unprecedented for a perimeter player) is a relevant one, but there's no way he goes 275. That's huge. He's listed at 250 and might be 5 pounds heavier than that, but come on, 275? Andrew Bynum is listed at 275, and he's a legit 7-footer.

 
At 1/10/2009 1:42 PM, Blogger ethan said...

wondahbap,

If your null hypothesis is that Kobe is the greatest player in the world, your argument is plausible. But Kobe's advantage in (Shaq-aided) championships and jump shooting is overwhelmed by LeBron's advantage in EVERY other part of the game right now. This is not to denigrate Kobe, although my own appreciation of Kobe is limited by my frustration at the (forced and unflattering) comparisons to Jordan, but as Shoals is pointing out, LeBron's unique brand of dominance has never been seen before.

Also, LeBron taking that crappy Cavs team to the finals in 2007 and the Celtics to the brink last year easily matches up with any of Kobe's team achievements without Shaq.

 
At 1/10/2009 2:14 PM, Blogger flyE said...

Brown Recluse, Esq.,
Keith Dambrot (Lebron's HS coach) said LBJ weighed 266 when he saw him in July. In November Jon Barry reported that he was over 270, which Lebron denied. Some Cavs bloggers claim he was 262 with 5.2% body fat at his exit physical after the season last year. So I think 265 is a pretty good estimate.

Which makes him "overweight" bordering on "obese" by the standard BMI calculator.

 
At 1/10/2009 3:30 PM, Blogger antonymous said...

I like the overall concept. LeBron has become a game-changer in a way that Kobe has been unable to. I don't say unable because of Kobe's abilities (or sheer strength, which is a pretty big deal), but because of the system. LeBron's team is built around Lebron, where Kobe's team is built around team play. Lebron has an unlimited creative workspace right now, and it makes him look like Michelangelo.

Hinting at your larger question though, LeBron does not have to reign in his game, or even adjust it, to win a championship. In fact, I'd argue that a mid-range jumper would be a dissonant color to add to his palette. We want his broad, sweeping movements combined with his meticulous detail and control, not someone who imitates those who have had their games shoehorned into becoming jump shooters. LeBron's caliber of play will not require that for another 20 years.

As a contrast, Kobe's mortality hinges on the play of his teammates. He can have success for several more years, but I couldn't see him leading that Cavs team deep in the playoffs. A Cavs-Lakers finals would really be the ultimate test of Phil Jackson's immovable object meeting Lebron's unstoppable force.

wv: lardlisi - a sandwich of nothing but lard and pesto

 
At 1/10/2009 3:54 PM, Blogger Hardwood Paroxysm said...

Interestingly, I think Atonymous actually happened upon something important. The big differential to me is the Kobe is the basketball culmination of what we've known basketball to be. He's not Jordan, because Jordan had an iconicity that Kobe's never managed to fully reach. He's iconic in his own right, but not "statues outside the building" iconic. He's the culmination of history, not the height of or a redefinition therein.

LeBron, by contrast, is, in a lot of ways, the definition of a new era. He's a gamechanger, in that he's changing the game in whole. I've been saying for much of this season that Kobe's a better basketball player, LeBron is a better athlete, to the point where he's a force of nature. Kobe has him thrashed on effort, focus, intensity, and self-awareness. But LeBron is simply more gifted physically. Combine that with his ability, as noted in the graph, to fully integrate the totality of his game, and you have the basketball equivalent of a political realignment.

If he weren't so obsessed with his global perception, he'd be the NBA's Marx. Or perhaps he's the NBA's Stalin. He wasn't there for the revolution, but he's come to rule with an iron fist.

 
At 1/10/2009 4:01 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

His body is a doppelganger of Karl Malone's. His skills? Dios mio!

wv: nodde. A cartoon in which said cab-driving elf is actually nice.

 
At 1/10/2009 4:11 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

Atonymous & HP,

Good points, but let me ask you this:

Do you think LeBron would be "reigned in" by the triangle as well?

 
At 1/10/2009 4:23 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

Atonymous & Hp,

You're actually very right about the points you make. As great as Kobe is, we've seen where he is or going with MJ. We haven't seen a LBJ, regardless of who's better.

 
At 1/10/2009 4:25 PM, Blogger Hardwood Paroxysm said...

I don't think LeBron could operate in the triangle because he demands too much attention/control/emphasis. And that's a weakness on his part. Kobe can operate in a system. LeBron's game tends to shred it. You can see it. You'll see Brown yelling for them to run a play and how they're not doing it right, and then LeBron will simply destroy someone (or take an ill-advised jumper).

Kobe's definitely reigned in by the system, but I don't think it's relevant to the discussion. Arguing who is better is moot, it's how they're different and what they mean that's important. It's sad to me that they exist in the same time. As great as the arguments against one another are, and the coming game a week from Monday is, I wish they were independent so we could appreciate them in their own context. Because Kobe fans are unable to truly be caught in LeBron's transcendence by their defense of their own, and Cleveland fans don't take the time to truly appreciate Kobe's shadow and how far it reaches. The revolution can't appreciate the old regime's historical relevance, and the reigning establishment can't give credence to the uprising.

 
At 1/10/2009 5:25 PM, Blogger Brian said...

wondahbap,

Except there is lots of evidence to this fact. I weigh FD superlatives and Hollinger's data with equal weight; I think both teach me a lot about basketball. The case for LBJ's transcendence in FD terms you've seen...and you are also disproven by the fact that LeBron's PER this year is more than four points higher than Kobe EVER put up. 32.4 versus Kobe's best campaign by far, which was 28. Oh, and Kobe put up that 28 when he was 27 years old, and LeBron put up a 28.1 when he was TWENTY-ONE YEARS OLD.

Lots of people turn blind when it comes to Kobe Bryant, but he isn't even in the same league of players as LBJ. Kobe is infinitely closer to Vince Carter than LBJ.

 
At 1/10/2009 5:25 PM, Blogger Mercurialblonde said...

Lebron's passing skills and willigness to pass to open teammates, would seem to make him the ideal superstar to play in a triangle offense with other hall of famers. Lebron's dominance always finds a way. His all-star MVPs, and Team USA performances seem to point to this. A more talented team would just cause an upsurge in his defensive dominance I think.

 
At 1/10/2009 6:05 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

Brian,

P.E.R. is garbage. According to John Hollinger, Manu Ginobili is more valuable than Kobe also. What a boring argument. Good job.

And stating, "Kobe is infinitely closer to Vince Carter than LBJ" is just foolish.

Mercurialblonde,

A more talented team?

i find it funny that supporters of LBJ>Kobe use that as an excuse. You want to say or think he's better. Fine, but don't use that cop out.

1.) The Cavs are higher paid than the Lakers. Pay is an indication of a level of expectation. So unless Danny Ferry is completely incompetent, this team should be good.

2.) Minus Kobe and LBJ, Cleveland has more All-Star appearances on their roster than LA.

3.) They have a former DPOY and Champion on their team. He may be not what he used to be, but he's certainly a better option than Kwame Brown ever was.

4.) Mo Williams was a sought after free agent good enough that Riley wanted him to re-tool him Championship squad with a year later. So don't use Pau as an excuse either.

5.) Check the predictions from so called "experts" from the past 2-3 years. No one expected the Lakers to any good. Most had them between 7th and 9th.

6.) Top to bottom, West > East.

So exactly how does the talent on LBJ's team differ. Give credit where credit is due. Don't chalk it up to LeBron lifting scrubs to elite, and not Kobe. It's a myth.

 
At 1/10/2009 6:12 PM, Blogger Tony said...

"I think it has a lot to do with the fact that Kobe is mortal. He pushes himself, not the laws of what's possible. His vocabulary is all that basketball has to offer, not the possibility of total transcendence and reinvention of those parameters."

Amen.

Excellent points all around.

I like the point someone brought up - something along the lines of us seeing Kobe's act before - his ceiling is Jordan while Lebron's is infinite. We haven't seen a player play with Lebron's gifts before. We're not even sure what his real weight is, let alone whether he's just scratched the surface of his potential. I mean, its been said countless times, but what happens when he's got a steady jump shot? Or a post-up game?

Undoubtedly, Kobe's ceiling is Jordan's history. As a Laker fan who watches Laker games, Kobe is no MJ.

Lebron on the other hand, he's going to set his own precedent in the grand scheme of things. The same way Jordan set the precedent a generation before. The thing with Lebron is, educated NBA fans know he's on the verge of setting this precedent. We know it's going to happen before its about to happen, if that makes any sense.

Oh, and on the issue of weight and height: seeing Lebron stand next to Ben Wallace, who's listed at 6'9 240. Lebrons got an inch at least on him and maybe 15 lbs...

 
At 1/10/2009 6:20 PM, Blogger ethan said...

wondahbah,

If you want to completely ignore statistics, go ahead, but realize that it isn't just PER that rates LeBron ahead of Kobe. LeBron beats Kobe in pretty much every statistical category except 3P% and FT%. The stats run the gamut from run of the mill, like ppg, apg, rpg, st, blk, to more sophisticated, like +/-, per, win shares, etc.

We don't need to debate the merits of the various statistical tools, but there is absolutely no statistical justification for Kobe as the superior player. Your argument is purely subjective and hard to disprove because essentially you are saying that Kobe is the best because he just is. This is why non-Kobe fans get so fed up with him instead of appreciating what an amazing player he is on his own merits.

 
At 1/10/2009 6:42 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

This is really getting boring.

Okay, Ethan.

As far as PPG, we've seen what Kobe can do, so does that need to be addressed?

LeBron's role as point forward in is offense as opposed to Kobe's shooting guard in the Triangle does have an affect on the assist numbers. I believe a lakers bench player leads the team in +/- does that make him better than Kobe?

LeBron also averages more assists and rebs than MJ did. Does that make him better than him as well?

This is why Kobe fans get so fed up with LeBron supporters. You can manipulate numbers anyway you'd like, but look at the accomplishments. Then what case do you have? We can go back and forth. Their are advantages and disadvantages on both sides. From their beginnings in the NBA, right up to this season.

I appreciate him. I haven't knocked James once. I am just making the case that this thought that he is clearly superior just hasn't been realized yet. There's not enough to go on to say it, yet.

 
At 1/10/2009 7:10 PM, Blogger antonymous said...

LeBron in a triangle would certainly be interesting. I'm not sure what it would do to his dominance (or perceived dominance). The Lakers move the ball well, resulting in better team distribution at the expense of individual showmanship. LBJ in a triangle should not be compared to Kobe, but to the ghost of Lamar Odom.

In terms of contrast, it's LeBron's talents that demand the spacing. He can attack a doubleteam from almost any position on the court - and this in turn makes him a better passer. But of course, passing in one system/situation is completely different in another set of circumstances. It can't be translated, but it could certainly be taught.

 
At 1/10/2009 7:49 PM, Blogger Mercurialblonde said...

I wasn't saying anything about Lebron vs. Kobe's teammates. I was talking more about how the triangle offense has almost always been run by teams with multiple hall of famers. I've never seen it really used by a scrub team to much effect. Remember when Jim Clemmons tried to get the Dallas Mavericks to play the triangle? It wasn't nearly as effective as Don Nelson's madness.

I do think the triangle helps greedy players like Jordan and Kobe and Shaq to some extent. But I don't see the point of it, when you already have a playmaker who can move the ball from multiple positions on the floor. If Lebron was playing the triangle, you'd have to incorporate a lot more malleability into it, where he could play any position of the triangle at any given moment, which would also necessitate versatile teammates who could do the same.

I also think it's a ridiculous meme to talk about Lebron in terms of him still having to grow to arrive on the NBA scene. He's been one of the top two or three players for the last three seasons. And this season there is strong case that he is the best in the game. And while there is statistical evidence to that effect, you really have to watch him play to get it, because the stats are kind of skewed because the Cavs are dominating the rest of the league this year.

The extent to which he is now able to take over both ends of the floor in completely demoralizing ways for opposing teams, is pretty incredible.

The man is also a one-man transition defense. His closing speed is incredible. I don't think there is anyone in the league currently capable of contorting the physical realities of the game.

I agree with shoals that he is in danger of getting to that level of greatness where whether he wins a championship or not, he's going to be considered one of the greats. A championship doesn't add or take away from the mind seering moments he's given us the past few years.

Even without the titles, his playoff legacy is already pretty mythic.

 
At 1/10/2009 7:51 PM, Blogger Brian said...

But there hasn't even been a plausible argument for why Kobe should even be mentioned in the same breath. The closest you get is "sometimes, he scores a crapload of points!". And that's true - in those years when Kobe had an atrocious team, his usage rate was through the roof and he'd score a ton. And sure, the 81 point game was perhaps the most impressive single game performance ever.

But look at how well Kobe did in the 2005-2007 era compared with how well LBJ did in the past two years with a crappy team around him. Kobe's Lakers did nothing. LBJ - 6 years younger, mind you - took his craptastic team to the Finals, and then came within a hair of beating the same Celtics team that DISMANTLED Kobe with a MUCH BETTER supporting cast.

You say PER is worthless because at times Manu has had a higher efficiency rating, but that's not an argument, just a reason why you don't like the result. It undersells Kobe's defense somewhat, but there's no question Manu can put up an absurd amount of points just as efficiently as Kobe....

The point is, from the stats, the historical performance considering context, the OBVIOUS EVIDENCE IN FRONT OF OUR EYES - all of these point to LBJ already far surpassing Kobe's peak. Every possible perspective confirms this. I'm not a fan of LeBron...but the sublime is undeniable.

 
At 1/10/2009 8:51 PM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

I personally think LeBron will go down as the greatest NBA player of all time. But anyone that thinks that Kobe shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as LeBron really hasn't paid detailed attention to Kobe's career. PER justifications understood. LeBron is a statistical beast. But to disregard Kobe like that is just kinda crazy in my eyes. There's no way you can do that with the body of work he's put together. Just take a look at these vids:

http://www.youtube.com/user/LakersRule24

Is there anyone in the post Jordan era with that package of work behind him?

 
At 1/10/2009 9:38 PM, Blogger Tom said...

I appreciate all the in-depth philosophy here. I'm going to try to keep it simple.

There are two ways to (properly) argue whether or not one player is better than another player in team sports: statistics (objectively) and aethetics (subjective - those things that a box score cannot tell us) Many of the aesthetics are nebulous terms like 'will', 'killer instinct', 'leadership', 'clutchness'.

So here's the thing... Statistically, there is zero evidence that Kobe is a better player than LeBron. Honestly, it's been this way for at least 3 years now. This is probably why Kobe fans hate the player efficiency rating statistic because it will always show LeBron to be the best player in the league and Kobe to be less productive than Tim Duncan and Dwyane Wade. Regardless, it is a statistical upgrade over per game stats which the NBA still lives by. Have you ever seen MLB analysts arguging over the Cy Young by talking about total runs allowed or total this or that? No. Era is a PER/MINUTE stat. PER is a PER MINUTE composite stat.

Aesthetically, there is no way anyone can objectively prove which player has more of a "will to dominate" or whatever. However, I doubt there is a single sane person in the world that thinks Kobe Bryant is a better teammate than LeBron.

Go to 82games.com and look up "clutch stats" for this year and last year - those are stats when the game is on the line. LeBron is at the top.

And for the guy shamelessly trying to compare the supporting casts of the two teams NOW by bringing up total all-star appearances - that is about the most ridiculous argument of all time. As a GM, would you trade Pau Gasol for Ben Wallace? Please feel free. At the end of last season, I read a blog that showed the collective PER of teams MINUS the best player. The Lakers were first in the NBA, meaning, if you remove Kobe, the rest of the team was the best supporting cast in the league. The Cavs? They were second last behind Miami.

LeBron James is:
More productive
More efficient
More versatile,
a better defender,
a MUCH better passer
a MUCH better leader
MUCH more athletic,
and he has been the best player on the court everytime he has laced up against or alongside kobe since 2006.

It's that simple.

Kobe is great. LeBron is better.

 
At 1/10/2009 9:39 PM, Blogger Tom said...

EDIT: haha ERA is a PER INNING stat - obviously not per minute.

 
At 1/10/2009 10:05 PM, Blogger Anthony Wilson said...

I think the question: How would LeBron perform in the triangle is an interesting question, but an extremely difficult one to answer.

First of all, which function is he to be fulfilling? Let's say he's assuming Kobe's roles. When Kobe was playing with Shaq, he was the main ballhandler and distributor, the proverbial Pippen role. When Jackson returned for the first time, Kobe began operating as the triangle's main offensive threat, taking 27 shots a game. Now he's in the same position, but he has better teammates, so he doesn't shoot as much.

I think if you put LeBron on this current Lakers team, in Kobe's role, he'd probably average 25 points and 10 assists. If you put him on the 2006 Lakers, the squad that Kobe averaged 35 a night on, where the system was in place but he had the green light to shoot as much as he wanted...he wouldn't do it. Kobe's first instinct is to score; LeBron's is to pass. So I think LeBron'd average 30 points and 7 assists, like he did last year.

But who really knows.

 
At 1/10/2009 10:14 PM, Blogger Posit said...

Dear David Stern:

Instead of the Skills Contest this year, can we just have an Anthony Randolph and Javale McGee 1-on-1 sesh?

WV: chiken=DO IT!

 
At 1/10/2009 10:50 PM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

I really think we need to keep in mind that these two are almost completely different players. Kobe has tried to be a carbon copy of Jordan's technical mastery of they game, while LeBron is an out the womb basketball force of nature that does much of his damage attacking the basket. I don't think there has ever been a player like LeBron because of his rare combination of size/strength, speed/quickness. Kobe has a traditional wing's body. LeBron has the body of a power forward. He's like what everyone thought Daunte Culpepper was going to be to the QB position in the NFL. But if you really want to see the difference between the two take a look at LeBron and Kobe's Hot Zone chart on NBA.com. They just play a completely different game. It's like comparing Bird and Kobe. Great to talk about. But they really played entirely different positions and had completely different ways of playing the game. Jordan and Kobe comparisons are fair, because their games, roles, body types were pretty much the same. LeBron is just from some other world, so I don't even think he has anyone you can compare his game to. LeBron is the greatest small forward of all time. He plays more like a forward in that the key is his domain. Kobe is the second best shooting guard of all time (behind Jordan...nothing to be ashamed of). But really, despite similar per game statistics, they play very different styles of basketball.

 
At 1/11/2009 3:27 AM, Blogger tray said...

I love the metaphysical level you've taken this stuff to, but how is LeBron the equivalent of a political realignment or some sort of basketball revolution or even a gamechanger, given that the gifts that distinguish him are largely physical? He's one player. He can't make other players be more like him. He can't change the game. The number of babies that pop out with his ridiculous set of genes are just really limited. When he retires, the league will be just as it was before he came around.

 
At 1/11/2009 4:15 AM, Blogger HW said...

The problem with basketball-related stats is that it is one of the most fluid, real-time sports available. You absolutely cannot compare basketball stats to baseball stats; baseball is a turn-based game with very isolated occurences. You can't turn down the noise variable in basketball like you an in baseball.

Thus, the dismissal of basketball stats in support of Kobe isn't necessarily (even though it is commonly) the result of overzealous defense of Kobe's play. Basketball still is one of the top sports you NEED to watch in order to really assess quality as opposed to baseball or golf, etc.

Thus when I was face to face with a NY Knicks player at a hotel, asking him to assess Lebron-Kobe, he rolled his eyes, flubbed his lips, and said "Kobe, easily." Even being a Kobe Bryant fan, I was surprised by this answer. Easily? But he stood by his answer. Now, I'm not going to sit here and say this is some definitive judgment, but it goes to my point that those who play/have played basketball at such a high level see things, evaluate things, far beyond our computer stat readouts.

 
At 1/11/2009 11:26 AM, Blogger ethan said...

HW,

Interesting anecdote, but I don't think it actually proves anything. Athletes are generally the ultimate conformists and the orthodox NBA hierarchy has Kobe on top. The fact that a particular Knicks player agrees with this (it's telling that he didn't even think about it) is not exactly news. Also, on the court level, I'm sure Kobe is probably as intense as they come; my own experience at the gym is you remember the guys who bring it hard more than the guys who seem to effortlessly dominate.

I don't see how it is controversial to say that if someone makes a higher percentage of shots, gets more rebounds, assists, steals and blocks and his team has a greater dropoff when he's off the floor that he might actually be a better player. Statistics are imperfect to be sure, but they can help parse some objectivity out of our viewing biases.

 
At 1/11/2009 12:10 PM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

Ethan,

I don't find them to be conformist at all when it comes to this. The players in the league have been saying Kobe is the best player in basketball since 2003. People don't just pull stuff like that out of their ass, you know? When MJ was the best, they didn't say it to conform but because it was the truth. I've been around NBA players my entire adult life, and when it comes to talking about who they think the best is they are pretty honest and straight forward. They know who can go and who can't. The know who is on the rise and who has lost a step. They also know inside stuff that doesn't always get talked about in the media. Again, I think the tide of player opinion is starting to shift in LeBron's favor because he probably is the best right now. You're going to hear more players saying: LeBron is the best in the league. That's not because they are conformists (Although they are in other stuff they do...different story for a different day). It's because LeBron is starting to destroy people in 2008-2009 the way Kobe started to destroy cats in 2002-2003. Did you see Paul Pierce's face after Friday's game? It was like he was in total shock. Those are the kind of faces people would walk off with when Kobe would go out and score 42 points in a half on someone. Or hit 12 three pointers on a team. Or score 40 points in nine straight games. Players crowned him the best because of the body of work he has put together. I don't think anyone in the post MJ era comes close to that body of work. And the players know that.

 
At 1/11/2009 12:24 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

Wondabahp, I'd make the argument that if Lebron averages more rebounds and assists than Michael Jordan did, then he is a better rebounder and passer than Michael Jordan was. Not the same caliber a scorer, by any means, nor would I say he's "better than Jordan."

But arguing "Lebron gets more assists than Kobe because Lebron is a point forward and Kobe isn't" can easily be countered with the question: why isn't Kobe a point guard, or a point forward? Because that's not his skillset. He's a fantastic passer and rebounder in his own right, but it just isn't the same thing.

 
At 1/11/2009 12:36 PM, Blogger ethan said...

Nate,

Fair enough. I think what keeps gnawing at me is that humans, not just NBA players, have a tendency to remember negative experiences more strongly than positive. A Phoenix Suns player is probably more likely to remember Kobe's game 4 dagger in 05 than they are to remember the mail in job of game 7. Kobe has probably humiliated every wing in the game at some point in their career and that is the memory that burns brightest and longest. I guess right now there is a transition as the torch is passed from Kobe to LeBron. I just happen to think that LeBron became the preeminent player at least two years ago and right now the case for Kobe is weak.

The other complicating factor is that it's not as if Kobe has really fallen off, it's just LeBron taking his dominance to an entirely new level.

 
At 1/11/2009 2:46 PM, Blogger HW said...

Even if LeBron averages more assists in his entire career than Pippen, I'd be hard pressed to crown LeBron the better passer. Why? System.

And system is another reason why many NBA players have no problem saying that Kobe is the better player. Versatility matters.

 
At 1/11/2009 2:51 PM, Blogger Don said...

Kobe's career and abilities are all about duplicating what we have seen already. Except the big difference there is it can be legitimately argued that Kobe was the beneficiary of his teammate (Shag) being the driving force behind the rings Kobe wears.

With LeBron it is all about new possibilities and raising the bar of "holy crap nobody can do that stuff"...oh and Happy 24th Birthday LeBron. If LeBron gets his ring this season or next it will be b/c he is the driving force. LeBron is taking people with him no matter how high he decides to go, Kobe simply hasn't done that yet, history still shows him to be a passenger on that bus with Shaq.

The unique thing for both of them and us as fans is there has never been a time in NBA history where to players such as themselves with their skills sets have had head on careers.

 
At 1/11/2009 5:16 PM, Blogger McFruity said...

This is unrelated to the current discussion, but I thought it might be of interest given the Lamar Odom chapter in the book. He's discussing whether he'll be able to play or not: "It doesn't have the strength I want it to have. I can play with pain. My life is painful. I'm living it, you know what I'm saying? So, a knee? It's not ready. It's not stable enough."

(http://www.insidesocal.com/lakers/2009/01/odom-wont-play-sunday.html)

 
At 1/11/2009 5:47 PM, Blogger HW said...

Don,

Other swings could have gotten 1, at most 2 rings alongside shaq during that time. But back to back to back? Doubtful.

 
At 1/11/2009 7:42 PM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

I think people often forget about what Kobe contributed to those Lakers championship teams. Just go through the box scores from the 2001 playoffs. Guy absolutely destroyed the Western Conference that year.

http://www.nba.com/playoffs2001/

 
At 1/11/2009 8:06 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

I had a previous comment that was swallowed up... so bear with me if it somehow re-appears.

The basic gist of what I wanted to say was, any talk of Lebron's ceiling or potential is not complete without remembering that the guy came into the league originally as a point guard. The Cavs are forced to utilize him in a manner (scoring/playmaking SF) which maximizes their short-term effectiveness but takes away from the long-term magnificence of what Lebron could be. He could be Magic Johnson in Shawn Kemp's body. No one in the League is remotely as terrifying in transition, and to chain him down in a slow-down, drive-and-dish oriented "offense" that Mike Brown runs robs us of seeing what Lebron could fully be. I want to see him as a decision-maker or trigger man running the point for some fast-breaking team, handling the ball as much as Steve Nash or magic did; because he has as much play-making talent as those two guys did. His scoring or explosiveness isn't going away if he becomes a point guard, in fact this very notion is what made him so scary in the beginning.
As it stands, though, the Cavaliers are too crappy of a team to have the luxury of Lebron running the point. He needs to be shoe-horned into a "natural position" and play a certain way for his team to win. But that's the thing, though, originally Lebron was supposed to be the death of the "natural position". He was supposed to play in a way never seen before. What he does right now could be replicated in style (at a much lower level of effectiveness, though) by a number of slashing SFs with decent passing: Caron, Pierce, Gerald, Hedo, etc. What he could do, - be a 6'9 Point Guard who passes like Magic and finishes like...well ... Lebron... - that would be the true realization of all his potential. That's the only way he's going to leave me speechless.

Mike D'Antoni, if you are reading this, when you sign him in 2010, I want you to hand him the reins of the offense, put a couple of athletes and shooters around him and tell him to go run, run, Run...

 
At 1/11/2009 8:27 PM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

Daniel,

I think that needs to be D'Antoni and Walsh's selling point. I mean outside of it being the basketball Mecca, I know the appeal of being all that you just described would catch LeBron's attention.

 
At 1/11/2009 8:44 PM, Blogger FunWithLogic said...

Personally, I prefer Lincoln to FDR.

In 20 years, will learned basketball fans debate which of the two was better, or will they be celebrating each player in their own right? They are each archetypes of excellence. Please, leave the discussion to contrasting, not measuring, these two basketball GODS.

This reminds me of two Kill Bill quotes:

1. If you're gonna compare a Hanzo sword, you compare it to every other sword ever made... that wasn't made by Hattori Hanzo.

2. Take my favorite superhero, Superman. Not a great comic book. Not particularly well-drawn. But the mythology... The mythology is not only great, it's unique. Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there's the superhero and there's the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he's Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn't become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he's Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red "S", that's the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears - the glasses, the business suit - that's the costume. That's the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He's weak... he's unsure of himself... he's a coward. Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race. Sorta like Beatrix Kiddo and Mrs. Tommy Plimpton.

 
At 1/11/2009 9:09 PM, Blogger Tom said...

@Daniel - you are living in the past. The Cavs "offense" that you speak of us 1st in the NBA in efficiency.

LeBron is staying in Cleveland - D'Antoni teams don't play enough D to win titles. And surrounding LeBron with shooters doesn't always work. LeBron finds guys on the pick and roll and pick and pop as well as anyone.

Hopefully you watched the FIBA games the last few years - you are right in that LeBron is naturally a point guard. He led those teams in assists (in spite of Jason Kidd being the starting PG)

But LeBron wasn't dishing to Michael Redd and Mike Miller - he was dishing to C Bosh on the pick and roll.

Mike D'Antoni can't take LeBron to the promised land - but Mike Brown can.

 
At 1/12/2009 12:48 AM, Blogger Jerk Store said...

so does kg get to be martian manhunter? vince carter is shazam?

 
At 1/12/2009 9:28 AM, Blogger nadiel said...

Only FD could get a raging Kobe vs. LeBron debate going...

I wonder, does Soccer have debates about players who make their teammates better?

LeBron is a statistical anomaly, in all aspects. His court vision and natural feel for the game is unmatched.

I think that's where the debate is spot on: LeBron the pure talent/still raw potential vs. Kobe's studious mastery of the game. I will always think of Kobe as the overly competitive sociopath who will do anything to win (and why wouldn't you want someone like that on your team?).

LeBron, for whatever reason, has struck me as someone who realized he was good enough and really was not that interested in basketball. Of course that appears to have a changed a little this year.

In the end, I think agree with what has been stated. Kobe is the best of what we know can be obtained. A great on-the-ball defender, unrivaled scorer, guy who can get his own shot from anywhere, can post, drive, kick, anything you want him to do. LeBron is everything we had no idea was possible. A complete redefining. And while that is incredibly impressive, we should give time for the natural coronation.

As for Wade, well, isn't he just Lebron at 6.4? Guys who can drop 40 without a jumper or a single post move? Guys who play the passing lanes and use their superior quickness and vision to wreak havoc? am I missing something here?

 
At 1/12/2009 11:46 AM, Blogger Robert said...

Tom: There is nothing objective about statistics.

I like this discussion, generally. I certainly agree with the idea that Kobe is operating at the rational limits of the MJ paradigm, while LBJ may represent modern basketball's Cladogenesis.

Which is to say, we're watching Lebron shift an equilibrium.

Should that be the case, then balancing Kobe against Lebron is an exercise in futility. It's a nice tribute to MJ, but it's nothing more than reconciling the past and present. I can't imagine that's what Lebron is thinking about.

Lebron's kinetic potential, and the extent of its actualization, is more interesting to me when contrasted against his role in his draft class triad. There he actually does present a form of reconciliation, between Melo's physical gifts and joy of playing the game against Wade's Sysiphian struggle and ultimate accomplishments.
But that's just me

 
At 1/12/2009 12:05 PM, Blogger Mercurialblonde said...

KG is Black Adam to Tim Duncan's Shazam. Two heroes of similar powers, but one is sort of the white sheep success story, and the other will never be trusted or given his due within the larger hero community as having ecclipsed Shazam.

Kobe as Batman. The sociopath from priviledge.

Lebron as Captain America. The genetic freak who intuitively makes all of the right moves and is only fully appreciated when in his presence, versus Kobe's Batman who haunts opponents when he's not in the room.

Both get the job done.

There is no Superman. NBA fans are incapable of producing a heroic player who is perfect, is inspirational to both fans and players, and who sees the game as a mantle to protect the integrity of at the cost of their own flesh. Sports journalism won't ever let that happen in the NBA. Maybe the NFL.

 
At 1/12/2009 12:38 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

@Tom - I think I may have not elaborated myself in the way I wanted to.

I know that he finds guys on the pick and roll/pick and pop as well as anyone. I was actually trying to make that point... in a roudabout way. But the important thing to remember is... the Cavs still run a half-court offense the majority of the time. In terms of pace they are one of the slowest teams in the league as well (24th). They may lead the league in efficiency, but that just proves what I was saying about how it's more effective in the short run but detrimental to Leborn's overall career development.

I didn't mean that Lebron needs to be surrounded by only shooters in a "D'Antoni" system.
I was trying to say that he needs to be surrounded by shooters AND athletes, but more importantly, in a fast-paced, transition-oriented system - where HE is the point guard.

As for D'Antoni's coaching credentials... I wasn't really making a point about that. He might not have been able to get to the promised land with Nash... but would you really bet against it if he got Lebron? ...

 
At 1/12/2009 12:54 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

@Mercurialblonde - I couldn't help myself... but...

Why wouldn't His Airness fit the Superman corollary ?

It seems almost too simple to work, but it does?...

For an entire generation of kids across the world MJ embodied everything you described about a "heroic player who is perfect...etc"

I mean, kids killed each other over his shoes. When he visited Taiwan in retirement there were riots.

 
At 1/12/2009 1:27 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

I'm very proud of some of you commenter. You can read some numbers, and John Hollinger is your god.

My problem with the PER has nothing to do with where Kobe ranks on it. He's usually pretty high up (Shaq, as a Laker, had some of the best PER's ever). My problem with it is it is a self fulfilling prophecy based on ONE person subjective opinion of certain stats to come to a conclusion.

Can the PER be used to determine what college payers WILL be productive players? Or what up and coming NBA player deserves a max contract and can handle fame, media, the pressures of being the alpha dog on a team, intuition, instincts, hustle, etc? All of those things factor in to separates NBA stars from superstars from alleged BEST players in the world. It can tell me that Pau is more "efficient" player than Kendrick Perkins, but can it tell me that Perkins defense of Pau would throw a wrench in the Lakers offensive flow in the Finals? No.

PER is trash.


LeBron is great. A physical phenomenon, who very well could end up as the best ever. maybe not. But what I do is see with my eyes, that LBJ can't shoot like Kobe, he can't shoot with someone all over him like Kobe, he can't dribble better than Kobe, he doesn't have the footwork like Kobe. No one on the planet can get hot like Kobe.

For those who want to mention assists and rebound stats, I would say to you that James is no better a passer or rebounder than Kobe for their respective positions. They are both great passers, and one shouldn't get caught up in the numbers alone. Kobe always ranks as one of the top rebounders for his position (#2 this year). Rebounding is a wash.

Another thing that bothers me is that LeBron gets credit for making his team better, but Kobe just gets credit for having a better team. Both teams had the same humble beginnings. No one thought much of the talent on either. Maybe the Lakers are what they are specifically because they play with Kobe.

Tom,

My explanation of all-star appearances is a direct indication to the level of talent on each team.

Like I said before, most of you can chew up and spit out numbers anyway you'd like, but it doesn't really mean shit. I don't see Zach Randolph leading a team to the playoffs.

It's the little things that won't allow me to accept that LeBron has definitively taken over as Best in the World. Unlike some of you, my opinion doesn't come from a box score, but from what I see night in and night out, as a person who watches every Laker game, and about half of the Cavs games. Maybe I'm a homer, maybe not.

Could he be there? Maybe. Will he get there? Probably. I guess we'll know for sure come June.

 
At 1/12/2009 1:32 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

With all of that said, I agree with the original post.

With all of the tools that LeBron possesses now, he does have the ability to take the game to a level we haven't seen before. Will his potential be fully realized?

We've been at this same point with Shaq.

 
At 1/12/2009 2:17 PM, Blogger $9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

You guys are all wrong. Paul Pierce is the best player in the game, just ask him.

 
At 1/12/2009 2:49 PM, Blogger ethan said...

wondahbap,

You are 100% correct that Kobe has a beautiful jumper and LeBron is not even close to Kobe when it comes to shooting. Can you guess which of the two has better shooting statistics? Kobe does. The statistics are 100% in agreement with your observation that Kobe is a better shooter. Does anyone even question that point? But ask the Pistons how hot LeBron can get. The beauty of LeBron's play is that he doesn't rely as heavily on his jumper which can easily go cold for even the best of shooters.

It is not either/or stats vs observation but it is just dumb to completely ignore one over the other. PER is a decent composite stat of offensive production. You are right that it is not a correct measurement of overall skill since it neglects defense, but it is not worthless. Using it without understanding what it is good for is worthless.

 
At 1/12/2009 2:58 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

@wondahbap -

There's a problem with your method of evaluating players based seemingly entirely on what you see with your eyes. The things you point out about Kobe are true. He does "dribble better" than lebron, he does have better "footwork" and "shooting". But all that means is if there were a 1 on 1 tournament in the NBA kobe would beat out Lebron. That's it.

You cant prove without statistics that Kobe makes his teammates better...or that Lebron does either.

People on this site have used statistics to show that Lebron makes his teammates better than Kobe does. You don't agree with that. Great. But instead of using statistics to show Kobe being a better teammate than Lebron (or, if that's not possible, then admitting the inevitable and swallowing your Kobe-love), you fall back on amorphous concepts "no one on the planet can get hot like Kobe".

The facts are, Lebron has done more with a worse team than Kobe, and for many of us (not you apparently) that shows he is a better player now.

And All-star appearences being a direct indication of level of talent... wow... I mean, where to start? That's like saying you'd take Wally Sczerbiak over Andrew Bynum because he's made more All-Star games. Or the corpse of Ben Wallace over Pau Gasol. What does that mean? What does that even show? C'mon. Looking at their teams NOW Lebron is surrounded by much less talent than Kobe, and their teams are neck and neck in wins. Looking further back, Lebron took a team to the finals that nearly everyone would argue was about equally as talented as Kobe's team that year... and Kobe got bounced early. What does this show?

 
At 1/12/2009 3:17 PM, Blogger Browny said...

Alright, if nobody else is going to call Bullshit then I will. This is the most uninspiring generic piece of crap masquerading as insightful prose yet posted to this blog. "The more I watch Lebron this season, the more perplexed I am by Kobe Bryant" yet you go on to yet you go note that Kobe is "mortal" so why are you so perplexed? If he is mortal then he has limits, so why the faux bewilderment? Or even this other gem "Still not sure if he's growing apart from himself, James is cleaving him in two, or, building on the MVP and further toning down his play, Kobe himself is moving toward the same center as Lebron". Honestly, what the heck does that shit mean? That Kobe is constantly torn between being a facilitator and being a scorer? How does toning down belong in that sentence? In addition, if Kobe is moving towards the same center as Lebron, Lebron cannot have cleaved him in two can he? Most of this apology seems to have been written to massage your literary ego, not really to scratch an intellectual itch… oh well whatever, so you where say Lebron had a good game? Shocking!

 
At 1/12/2009 3:26 PM, Blogger HW said...

LOL, Browny, I completely agree. If anything, FD is the LeBron James of prose. Sometimes it's a tomahawk jam from the free throw line. Other times its just a crab dribble.

Anyway, back to cleaving.

 
At 1/12/2009 3:57 PM, Blogger Tom said...

@ daniel:

the only thing Kobe fans can "prove" is that he is a better shooter - which every LeBron supporter will agree with. Absolutely. No question. Better from 3, better from the line, better from midrange (LeBron is better around the basket of course).

However, Mark Price was a much better shooter than Kobe...and no one is going to say the Price was a better basketball player.

It gets so repetitive listening to all the intangibles that Kobe brings that supposedly separates him from LeBron. "He does whatever it takes to win.." Really? So LeBron doesn't? LeBron takes games off? What does that mean? Last time I checked, LeBron can win games like game 5 against Detroit, he can win games with double digit assists, he can win games with weakside blocks, he can win games with lock down defense (Kobe fans somehow forget LeBron shutting down Kobe last year in the 4th at staples - coming back from down 11 to win) He can win games at the line. (80%+ free throw shooter in the clutch)

There is really no evidence to show that Kobe "does whatever it takes to win" - in fact last year he mailed in the first 3 months of the season and yet still won the MVP...[sighs]

Btw I find it funny that people say Kobe is a better ball-handler than LeBron. That sounds good and all, until you realize that LeBron dishes out more assists and and has a higher usage rate and yet has LESS turnovers than Kobe. Even though LeBron drives into the teeth of the defense more to score, while Kobe is chucking up long jumpers. But yeah...Kobe is a better ball handler....

Kobe fans are the most biased fans in all of sports. An entire city of millions form one big Kobe apologist. He basically sucked ass for the entire olympics - made 3 or 4 big shots in the gold medal game in spite of playing HORRIFIC defense and all I ever hear is "without Kobe, team USA doesn't win gold..."

 
At 1/12/2009 4:01 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

Ethan & Daniel,

I think you two had too much Kool- Aid.

Please explain why exactly it's a given that the Lakers are more talented than the Cavs, and why Kobe is the beneficiary, but the Cavs are the beneficiary of LeBron's talent.

I know you two cling to stats and predictors, so before you unload your crap on me, look up the predictions for the past few years.

 
At 1/12/2009 4:03 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

Tom,

Seriously, Bill Simmons?

 
At 1/12/2009 4:28 PM, Blogger Tom said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 1/12/2009 4:29 PM, Blogger Tom said...

wondahbap

When Kobe scores a lot - the Lakers are an average team. And Kobe's a scorer...

Look, the reason I bring up stats, is to try to level the playing field. I assume (correctly) that you don't watch LeBron play as much as Kobe. I know I see more of LeBron than Kobe (although I do watch the Lakers almost as much as the Cavs). PER is just a composite offensive stat. So when ESPN has Friday night basketball and shows Wade, LeBron, and Kobe and ranks them by points per game - that is MORE WORTHLESS than something like PER. Is PER the end all stat for determining a player's worth? Of course not - no one, not even John Hollinger, believes that. However, using the stat as a comparison of positive offensive production has worth.

Let's stay away from stats for a moment - the last 20 times LeBron and Kobe were on the same court together - whether head to head, or on the Olympic team - LeBron was the best player on the court. Oh, Kobe's reputation was bigger the entire time, that's for sure. But LeBron's game was superior.

Bill Simmons isn't a stat guy - but he got to watch LeBron and Kobe go against his team the Celtics.

 
At 1/12/2009 4:54 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

seems like every blog/thread/comments section on the internet that ever mentions Kobe Bean Bryant eventually dissolves into a flame war between Kobe Apologists and Kobe Haters.

That said, ...

@ Tom - I never said Kobe does "whatever it takes to win"... and no where in my post do I go off on all these superlatives about Kobe that you so hate. I don't know where you got all of that, but it wasn't from my post.

It's like the mere mention of Kobe being the best at something brings out the worst in people- either they get mad because you say he's not the best at EVERYTHING (wondahbap) or they get mad because they think someone else is better than Kobe at it (Tom).

I will still argue that he is a fundamentally better basketball player when compared to Lebron when you just look at skill sets. However, as we all know, there is more to the game than that, and Lebron's other (physical, etc) gifts give him the edge in the end.


@ wondahbap - If you insist on flogging a very dead horse: the Lakers are better because they have better players 2-12. Stats or no stats, eye-ball armchair comparison or not, professional scouting, whatever the fuck you use, it's not even worth arguing. Poll the nation, NBA players, coaches, GMs, freedarko, I don't know. Everyone will tell you LA has more talent then Cleveland.

 
At 1/12/2009 5:03 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

Daniel,

Thanks. I know that. That wasn't my point. My point is that it's worng to think that the Lakers are more talented just because they are, but LeBron simply makes his band of scrubs better. Fact is, just over a year ago, the Lakers were considered scrubs, but yet, Kobe isn't considered a reason for their breakout. Just a beneficiary. Is this clear enough? Or does ESPN need to write an article on this so that people will digest it?

Ugh. This is why I told myself I was done with this conversation.

Finally. Not once did I knock LeBron. I get his greatness. I don't get the thought that he is vastly superior due to this stat or that stat, or that the things he does do better than Kobe (which there are, and I agree) is enough to warrant me thinking he is vastly superior, to the fact that he shouldn't be "mentioned in the same breath" as someone here claims. Not once did I get mad. Just frustrated that people see what they want to because it fits, or because Bill Simmons or John Hollinger says so (like mailing it in for 3 months?).

 
At 1/12/2009 5:11 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

wondahbap,

Thanks for the clarification.
I think the "general consensus" amongst fans and the media is that the Pau Gasol trade midway through last season, coupled with the emergence of Andrew Bynum, moved the talent level of the Lakers beyond what it was before (and Lebron's Cavs).
Why people claim Lebron is making his scrubs better but Kobe isn't is because, coming from the earlier viewpoint, Kobe now has what is seen as the more talented team, and we believe this coincided directly with their Finals run last season.

Yet Lebron had just as much success team-wise in wins and playoff progress a few years ago with a worse team, while Kobe was being bounced by the Suns.

Presently, both of them have nearly identical success wins-wise, but Kobe's team is now seen as superior to Lebrons - that's where the argument is coming from.

That is all.

 
At 1/12/2009 5:14 PM, Blogger Tom said...

@daniel - i know. I am agreeing with your previous post and adding to it.

 
At 1/12/2009 5:15 PM, Blogger Amir said...

I'm sick of these articles. just watch the fucking game and if you have something that less than 200000 bloggers said before, say it. otherwise spare us. please.

 
At 1/12/2009 5:18 PM, Blogger Anthony Wilson said...

This is beginning to resemble a YouTube message board more than an FD one.

It seems to me that some people commenting have something invested in the players, and it always seemed to me that the commenters on this site were completely objective.

Also think there is WAY too much talk about statistics going on. There's just so much they don't account for. Besides, since when did stats carry and weight AT ALL on FD?

My opinion? Kobe is more skilled, but LeBron is just as effective. Kobe's game is technically flwaless; LeBron's doesn't have to be.

One thing I can say is this: Kobe has NEVER dominated a game, one both ends, for 48 minutes, like LeBron did against the Celtics on Friday. LeBron's advantages in physical gifts make the game easier for him.

He doesn't have to work as hard on either end; as easy as Kobe makes the game look, of course he has to expend more energy. LeBron can drive to the hole relentlessly and create contact and it takes nothing out of him; you don't put a body on him, he puts a body on YOU.

Defensively, he has equal lateral movement and quickness to Kobe, only he's much bigger and stronger and has longer arms - so one-on-one, you can't beat him off the dribble, get a good shot over him, or post him up.

These are just facts.

 
At 1/12/2009 6:09 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I always strive for capital B Bullshit. And diagrams to illustrate it.

 
At 1/12/2009 6:51 PM, Blogger Robert said...

@ Anthony: Well Put

Statistics area little ridiculous in Basketball.

The way that they are measured is very subjective, which is a necessity when you're talking about such a fluid game. Even baseball statistics are subjective, and that is a much more statistically measurable game. Paced, with a long season. 82 games is really not a great sample size.

Moreover, when the game is paced like basketball, Mo Williams not making the proper cut can mean that Lebron gets credited with a turnover. In a game this fluid, it is wrong to rely on statistics that are, almost predominantly, on-ball measurements.

So please, please stop.

What I really love about FD is that it revels in the metaphysical elements of the game. Numbers matter, sure, but only insofar as they enhance the narrative of a season or career.

This Kobe vs. Lebron debate falls well outside that realm. So just stop it. They are different players, with different histories, people will remember them in different ways (which you prove with each subsequent post). But LBJ has game 5. Kobe has 81. Kobe has his quest for perfection, and Lebron has a momentum like Cain Marko. They have their legends.

The immutable truth here? First, nothing in this debate is adding to the wonderous alchemy of basketball. Numbers can say whatever you want them to.

Second, Bill Simmons is a homer. I have literally read a post of Simmons that gives credit to Boston for inventing towel-waving. Some good insights, but he isn't really an authority. Why does he have a blog? Because of at least 3 guys at any bar you frequent, wherever you are. Boston fans are ubiquitous for some reason, and it's either a bandwagon or good Irish Catholic fucking.

But I digress. I really am interested in part of this conversation, at least the part that the post brought up. Which is:

Lebron as Cladogenesis.

For a while after Shaq, gigantic centers were seen as so essential that now, people actually think that Yao Ming is good at basketball. More recently, adept point guards are at a premium, which is probably just a pendulum effect of the demand for huge centers, meaning less running, meaning a need for better half-court games.

Lebron is changing the look. He is built like a tight end. A really badass tight end, actually, or a new-breed tall slot receiver. What if Marques Colston, Roddy White or Dwayne Bowe had gone to roundball? A defensive post presence that can get up the court fast enough to play run & gun.

So I think there are much bigger things goin on here than Kobe vs. Lebron.

 
At 1/12/2009 7:01 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

I didn't want to get involved in yet another Kobe v. LBJ battle, but the unoriginal thought ESPN regurgitating incomplete stat loving must stop.

Sorry if I added to another boring back and forth. I tried to stop.

 
At 1/12/2009 7:08 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Wow - everybody hates stats here. Ok...


LeBron does at least one thing every game that I have never seen an athlete do before.

 
At 1/12/2009 7:51 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

"Going on PER, James is currently having the best NBA season. Ever."

Haha. Nice one.

 
At 1/12/2009 9:25 PM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

Apparently my dream of a better tomorrow really was blind optimism.

 
At 1/13/2009 2:40 AM, Blogger Jerry Vinokurov said...

Kobe vs. LeBron be damned, but I'm utterly perplexed by the stats hate in this thread. What's even weirder is that the stats hate is invoked in favor of trite cliches about "will" or "handling media" or "instincts" or whatthefuckever. If you have to hate numbers, at least hate them for exciting, transcendent reasons, rather than for the nonsense every no-talent commentator on TV spews when he has nothing interesting to say about the game.

On that note, you know who I want to hear more about? Danny Granger.

 
At 1/13/2009 2:42 AM, Blogger The Till Show said...

As I've stated in one of my writings (shameless plug), the reason why Lebron's career trajectory will end up greater than Kobe's is because while Kobe is his own player, the MJ comparisons somewhat hurt his legacy. He's viewed kind of as a derivative of His Airness (I know he isn't one, Shoals). Lebron will change the way we see basketball, if he hasn't do so already. Lebron has surpassed Kobe, not by much, but to where there is little argument for "1a and 1b." Kobe is still an assassin though. Lebron is just a natural disaster with the rock.

 
At 1/13/2009 4:29 AM, Blogger StreakShooter McFloorburn said...

Per the almanac, Kobe is a knife and LeBron is a locomotive, right? A knife can be a very destructive tool, whether it is used with precision or recklessly, but can be defended against by effective techniques or armor. A locomotive at speed, however, is a truly fearsome thing to stand in front of and the best option when confronted with one is simply to get off of the tracks. Good thing locomotives are bound to those tracks! Statistically and/or subjectively speaking, I still prefer Chris Paul as the "best" player in the league, and the most "skilled", for his position or otherwise. As he lacks their otherworldly physical gifts, he'll never be able to drop jaws like KoBronWa'Melo or whoever, but his sheer bowling ability alone has the most potential to redefine the meaning of "all-around game" as we know it. Oh, and Robert: Yao Ming is good at basketball - he's just not that good at being a gigantic center.

 
At 1/13/2009 4:37 AM, Blogger StreakShooter McFloorburn said...

Also, just to be an ass, when nadiel said: Only FD could get a raging Kobe vs. LeBron debate going...", I hope it was intended as humor. People sneezing in Oklahoma City can get a raging Kobe vs. LeBron debate going.

 
At 1/13/2009 7:17 AM, Blogger milaz said...

Mostly on (part of) the discussion below the post:

Kobe was in his prime when his team was struggling to make the playoffs or was 7th, 8th seed... that's when he was the (only) leader on the Lakers. Today he is the reigning MVP, but we all know last year's best player was CP3 and Kobe got it as a reward for the previous (Nash) years. He is the second best SG of all time, behind possibly the greatest athlete of all time. This years Lakers are a very complete team and Kobe can share the responsibility - he has 3 Scottie Pippen's!

The greatest athlete of all time, MJ, is considered to be so, b/c he won more than anybody else in his era. He willed teams to victories and moreover championships. That is something that Kobe has not put on his resume yet... Now to compare their games is a meaningless exercise... both have great games at the highest level of pro basketball

Now, as far as LeBron... he has the potential to put many many rings on his fingers... and he is more (more than Kobe) of the the type of player that wills the whole team to win. At this moment in time, Kobe is still more accomplished (3 rings), but I doubt it will remain that way... and LBJ will be the most dominant player on the teams that he leads.
He is still not Jordan either, nobody is... but he has more potential to create a similar myth...

 
At 1/13/2009 9:19 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Speaking of my literary ego, this post was linked to by a couple people, so the crowd might not be the usualy FD bunch.

Speaking of Granger, I skipped out on seeing him vs. the Jazz last night because my whole body hurts. I really don't regret missing Okur's career high. On the season, though, I am so much more stoked about Granger than Harris that it's not even funny.

 
At 1/13/2009 11:07 AM, Blogger wondahbap said...

If Paul Pierce is Superman, then LeBron is Doomsday.

 
At 1/13/2009 12:32 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

I was at the Energy Slut Arena last night and the sight of Memo blowing on his "hot" fingers, then holstering them, was the height of camp: Elvis Kaufman Clinton.

 
At 1/13/2009 2:06 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

I'm I the only one who gets pissed when "analysts" assume that LeBron must've learned something from Kobe about intensity and winning attitude at the olympics? LeBron is still maturing at age 23 and while the Olympic experience probably helped him, I don't attribute ANY of that to Kobe's influence. IMO Kobe has nothing to do with Bron's ascent. And I couldn't agree more about Kobe as a sort of flawed Jordan 2.0 while LeBron is something new and different, the likes of which we have never seen before.

 
At 1/13/2009 3:01 PM, Blogger The Till Show said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 1/13/2009 3:03 PM, Blogger The Till Show said...

@wondahbap: Then Dwyane Wade is The Green Lantern:

http://fundamentallyunsound.blogspot.com/2009/01/flash-needs-new-nickname.html

 
At 1/14/2009 3:28 AM, Blogger nadiel said...

StreakShooter - absolutely sarcastic (capital B Bullshit). Kinda seemed a little forced on FD's part to talk about the LeBron movement in comparison to Kobe - flame war ensues.

In any case, Marc Stein or Bucher on Simmons' podcast said (paraphrased): No small forward has ever lead a team to a title.

Made me think, does LeBron's inevitable title count as a small forward winning, or is he something else? Is there a SF revolution (and the thesis of FD is of the SF, right?) with the rise of Granger, Durant, Melo, Gay (stretching - Marvin and D.MILES?) coming, or is the fact that only Melo's O-fer stands as the pinnacle of modern Small Forward-dom damning?

In other words, is LeBron really changing what we know, or enforcing it? In the end, shouldn't we count him as a big man winning the title, position be damned - How is LeBron different from Nowitzki standing on the perimeter on offense?
(Not to compare the two, but saying that both seem to play on the perimeter but are legit big men, and damn, LBJ scores more in the paint too).

LeBron's revolution might not change a single thing, just be a blip in the radar, like the Piston's no-star title.

(Enter pic of LeBron in Browns uniform. Now that would be devastating).

 
At 1/14/2009 4:40 AM, Blogger T. said...

In any case, Marc Stein or Bucher on Simmons' podcast said (paraphrased): No small forward has ever lead a team to a title.

Really? (I haven't heard). Wouldn't Larry Joe Bird (or Dr. J) count?

 
At 1/14/2009 5:05 AM, Blogger Mercurialblonde said...

Paul Pierce is Hank Pym.

 
At 1/14/2009 9:05 AM, Blogger W2 said...

The world wants Kobe vs. LeBron for seven games in the finals.

Spurs, Celts, Orlando, and perhaps Detroit stand in the way.

The second half of the season could be special.

 
At 1/14/2009 9:12 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

New post today or tomorrow on a totally different subject that won't lead to such an exhausting, and grueling, debate. I might even write it on an airplane for all of you.

 
At 1/14/2009 9:45 AM, Blogger wondahbap said...

Shoals,

I don't believe that for a second.

I am fully expecting a Deron Williams/Chris Paul comparison (Just so someone can come here and quote "The Sports Guy")

You like it.

 
At 1/14/2009 12:10 PM, Blogger Robert said...

@ Christopher

Yeah I agree, I think "Kobe as an old hand" is a bit overstated. The entire team was made up of guys who work hard (and, um, Melo) and I think any "influence" that happened was osmotic, not the result of some lame mentoring thing.

For the record I am not hating on Melo but he definitely learned the most of anybody over the Olympics and it has been showing this season. His rebounding and defense - much improved.

 
At 1/14/2009 2:02 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

The Redeem Teem tutelage bullshit is nothing more than a story line for ESPN and ABC to shove down the throats of the gullible and/or casual fan.

 
At 1/14/2009 3:33 PM, Blogger ethan said...

Jerry,

Thanks.

I always thought freedarko was about spotlighting the interesting things about the game that make it worth watching. Shoals can write an essay on why Granger is so much more compelling to him than Harris without trying to answer the question of who is better. Better is not the same as more fun to watch or any other characteristic you can subjectively assign a player. In my view, it is both fair and necessary to use quantitative analysis when making an overall evaluation of the player. It is only un-fd inasmuch as arguing over who is better to begin with is un-fd. But I agree that too much time overall is spent arguing over who is better and fd fills a niche for discussing the other aspects of the league.

wondahbp,

I was sick of the hype surrounding LeBron before he even reached the NBA but he has completely won me over with his play. I'm not a Cavs fan and have very little invested in LeBron, but when someone is that awesome at what they do, I take notice. Kobe has never wowed me the same way (no else has since I was a wee bit too young to truly appreciate Jordan, although Shaq during the Lakers title years was close). The fact that LeBron's stats are so incredible only quantifies my observations. But at this point, we'll just have to agree to disagree.

 
At 1/14/2009 5:03 PM, Blogger Browny said...

Shoals,
Try capitalized B for Boring. You knew this piece was dumb when you wrote but you put it out anyway, (for the traffic, I guess). I do not have any problem with your overarching argument but it’s execution was at best, pretentious. So sue me I cannot type but I sure as hell can read.

 
At 1/14/2009 5:43 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

You knew this piece was dumb when you wrote but you put it out anway

Actually, I kind of liked it. That's why I finished writing it and posted it.

(for the traffic, I guess)

Yes, for the traffic. That's also why I hadn't posted for two weeks before this. Why do I want this traffic? To make money off the one ad we have buried at the bottom of the page. Or maybe to get attention, since we're just getting started and no one knows this site.

I do not have any problem with your overarching argument but it’s execution was at best, pretentious.

Wow, that's a relief. Thought it's a fucking pretentious argument. What else do you expect from its execution? And how exactly does that work with your diagnosis of "dumb" and "boring"?

So sue me I cannot type but I sure as hell can read.

If you're going to call someone out on his writing, the least you could would be to prove you could put together a three-sentence comment without all sorts of typos.

I just kind of resent the implication that I still have a damn thing to prove on here, or would even bother putting up a post unless I was 100% behind it.

 
At 1/14/2009 6:27 PM, Blogger trouc said...

if there's anything we need it's more shoals posts, not less, so browny please shut up.

 
At 1/14/2009 9:08 PM, Blogger W2 said...

Shoals,

New Jersey Nets recently starting forward/rookie Ryan Andersen grows hair out, cops a soft mustache, pics up the mic and becomes freestyle wizard/midwest MC Eyedea.

What do you think? The post was solid.

Nets always look terrible against the C's, makes me not feel all the Devin Harris talk. Is he really good or is he benefitting from touching the ball always?

 
At 1/15/2009 12:18 AM, Blogger wondahbap said...

W2,

Is Rondo really good, or is he benefiting from playing with KG, PP and Ray Allen always?

Things that make you go hmmmm...

Point is, they're both maximizing their situations.

 
At 1/15/2009 12:29 AM, Blogger Browny said...

Shoals,

Your genius lies in the unpredictability of the tangents of your approach to a linear argument not in the erratics of your composition. This shit was whack bro, and you know it. Bashing me over the head with the elementary nature of my mistakes does in anyway improve the quality of your post.

 
At 1/15/2009 2:11 AM, Blogger Nathan said...

You ask why people hate stats. What you mean is, why do they hate on such use of stats as to reduce a complex reality to a single number. If that description rings a bell, you might be thinking of "risk analysis" of financial instruments where physicists-turned-financiers boiled down securities' risk of failure to a single number. How did that work out? On a less metaphorical level, does it strike you as strange that we should be "adding" points and rebounds? (Like if I have an apple and an orange, do I have 2.3 oranples?) Or that the statistics that are "added" are whichever ones happen to be recorded in official box scores?

Statisticians are the Wizard of Oz. There is nothing real behind the curtain.

 
At 1/15/2009 5:27 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Nathan - you're a tool. I've read what you have written, and I have concluded that you are the biggest moron on the face of the planet. There is no one else quite as ridiculously idiotic as you.

Now, everyone else may be thinking - "I dunno about that...he's going off of a small sample size, and it's really just his opinion. Who know's, this nathan clown might be a cool guy."

You are probably thinking "I know I'm cool - this guy needs to shut the hell up."

Here's the problem - in the age of Bill Walton hyperbole, anything instantly becomes "THE GREATEST, THE WORST, THE SINGLE MOST ELECTRIFYING, THE ABSOLUTE JUGGERNAUT".....it's nauseating.

Statistics provide a calming effect on everyone. Just because you saw Kobe make a few threes in the 4th quarter and he wound up with 35 points doesn't mean he didn't shoot 12-36.

And for all the hate you have with PER, (I'm assuming you are hating on composite stats) - PER, wins produced, Roland Rating, whatever - they may be made up of box score stats, but those metrics can be used to approximate how much a player contributes to WINNING. And that's what this game is all about. Points per game doesn't tell you that. 81 points in 1 game against one of the worst defensive teams in NBA history doesn't tell you that.

What is the point of trying to prove a point if you have no proof?

There is a lot more "behind the curtain" with composite stats than there is with some anonymous ass clown claiming to know it all in a blog.

 
At 1/15/2009 5:31 AM, Blogger Tom said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 1/15/2009 5:33 AM, Blogger Tom said...

As a fan of the game, when I write a blog, or comment in one, I assume that everyone SHOULD ASSUME I am a biased homer - and it is my job to use unbiased metrics ALONG with my observations to provide a sound argument/analysis.

 
At 1/15/2009 5:53 AM, Blogger Nathan said...

Tom: uh, really? Even Tim Legler? I don't see it-- just feel like if I were really as epically stupid as you say, I should be a successful media pundit or something.

 
At 1/15/2009 6:49 AM, Blogger db said...

It'd be nice to see this thread run to the death before a new post was made, just as an ethnographic reality-check on the nature of the FD/FD-linked blogosphere... pretty much all the major philosophical questions seem to be at work here.

Most of the thinking crowd are talking about "eras" and evolution rather than "better". LeBron obviously reshapes the game and refigures what is possible, Kobe obviously is the highest evolution of his generation (which I personally think is not the same as MJ, but happy to leave those who do). This is qualitative rather than quantitative analysis, which is ultimately my take on the FD approach.

[That's not to say stats are unimportant, they are important preciselybecause we interpret them as meaningful, and the book does this brilliantly. One of the things that bugs me about the Gladwell mode is how the narrowness of the cultural parameters through which data is seen as meaningful. LBJ read in light of Shahnameh shows that for what it is, great job.]

My question is whether Kobe vs MJ arguments would be better framed by closer attention to the racial and socio-political contexts of their respective eras. MJ entered the league the same year Run-D.M.C. become the first rap appearance on MTV. His success simply did not have the need to make the kind of nods to black culture that Kobe has felt (poorly, but understandably ) compelled to.

Here is where I think Kobe is a transitional figure, "split", as you put it. MJ was a mean-ass Huxtable, and perhaps Lebron is a self-actuating Huxtable 2.0, but Kobe seems temprementally too (Italian) expressive for Huxtable 1.5, and too schooled in 1.0 to be his own self. So he is suppressing his Euro spirit to perfect his Afro-American body, perhaps this leads to the dualism / slut-goddess syndrome / treating his body as instrument that is quite distinctively Kobe.

 
At 1/15/2009 7:03 AM, Blogger Jerk Store said...

there's a profile by everyone's fav klosterman in the newest esquire i thought was worth mentioning. it's on michelle obama's brother and what you can tell about someone's personality from their basketball game. except in true klosterman form, you can tell EVERYTHING and NOTHING. they'll probably post it online eventually, but for now it's in print, with the (cliche) shepherd fairey obama cover.

 
At 1/15/2009 3:15 PM, Blogger The Till Show said...

This debate boils down to Kobe's precision versus Lebron's might. Those who side with Kobe usually view Lebron as solely a bully. Those who side with Lebron see Kobe as someone who shoots jumpers at will. We tend to overlook just how effective one player is at the other's main strength; which is why both of them are head and shoulders above the rest of the Association.


With that said, I side with Lebron because when it was consensus that it was 1a and 1b, people were waiting to see Lebron improve defensively and from the perimeter. This season, Lebron has done so, particularly on the help side. While his jumper still needs tinkering, it isn't the outstanding weakness it was a few years ago. One player added to the Cavs, and they have the best player in the Association. Yes, Mo-Will is better than people thought, but no one can deny Lebron's impact through his sheer ability.

 
At 1/15/2009 3:43 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

As the author of this post, I can safely say that I never intended it as a "who's better" provocation. Nor did I "know it was whack." Just wanted to clear that up. Sorry if that causes problems for any of these 114 comments.

Oh, and one more thing: Browny, for your criticism to mean anything, you do need to prove you can form an intelligible thought, or have a blog I can look at. Otherwise you're just a fucking joke, that I'm responding to our of sheer boredom and vanity. I also suspect you are in league with people who consider themselves my enemy.

 
At 1/15/2009 4:14 PM, Blogger Robert said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 1/15/2009 4:16 PM, Blogger Robert said...

I was unaware that metaphysical basketball philosophy bred many villains. Perhaps I haven't fallen far enough down the rabbit hole.

I had a professor in college who was obsessed with the search for a predictive algorithm of when any given discussion would result in a Nazi analogy. He was always insisting he was r-i-g-h-t there.

I think any Kobe/Lebron conversation may have a similar predictive timeline of resentment. Scholarly debate and observation will, at some point, degenerate into polarized elements lashing out at each other. Which really just points to how futile the whole thing is, particularly when it wasn't the original aim of the whole thing.

But you know, there was another group of people who were convinced that Kobe and Lebron were diametrically opposed: The NAZIS.

 
At 1/15/2009 4:22 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

How about an update on the J.R. Smith Experience?

 
At 1/15/2009 5:49 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

Why couldn't the longest comment thread in the history of the site been about Gerald Wallace, for fuck's sake . . .

 
At 1/15/2009 8:22 PM, OpenID jbravo said...

Kobe's greatest strength also proved to be his greatest limitation.

He attempted to match and exceed Jordan's game so much that he limited to himself to Jordan's game plus range on his jumper. The flaw here is that without all of Jordan's other irreproducible assets - his massive hands, his dominating will, his time under Dean Smith - Kobe wasn't able to clone himself into a perfect enough copy.

He was bound to be <= Jordan the day he chose this path, and has so far been relegated to the best impersonator so far.

James, instead, chose to form his basketball self as a pastiche, a collage of what was great about several players. It's cliche at this point, but he took some of Magic's passing, some of Jordan's driving ability, Malone's bull-to-the-NBA-Chinashop, and rubbed a little Oscar over the whole mess as glue.

Does this make him greater that all who came before, Himself included?

Not necessarily, and definitely not yet.

But it makes him different, and at least gives him the potential to be someone new, someone to be modeled after, once he's cemented his constellation in the firmament.

The two things I suspect may hold him back are that firstly, he doesn't have Jordan's will. That is, he has a supreme power of mind, but he's not as singularly focussed on basketball as Jordan was. LeBron wants to be great, wants to be a winner, but his scope is wider than the NBA, and thus perhaps a little more dilute.

Which brings up the second point, which is his focus, his ultimate goal. The NBA, and a championship, is a stepping stone on the career path of LeBron's life. One championship didn't sate Jordan, and neither did two or three. He though the third did, but then he needed three more, because basketball was all Micheal had.

LeBron, I suspect, won't be as hungry once he's ticked 'NBA Champ' off his resume. The ticket to his continued dominance might be to actually get denied again and again in the playoffs until he actually breaks through.

Those early years when he wasn't making the post-season, James was quoted as saying he couldn't "afford" to not get in the next year.

Sounds bold. Sounds like a burning desire to win.

But this wasn't some deep Freudian ache to be sated. This was a business man knowing his company couldn't afford another bad quarter.

Jordan's ostensible motivation was to win. Subconsciously, it had a lot to do with his dad, and acceptance.

Kobe's drive was to be better than Jordan. Which deep down meant to be better than his own father, and to be his own man by being another man.

LeBron's need is to establish his icon-hood, to cement his brand, and to become legendary, if not a legend. This I believe correlates to having to provide and support for all those who rely on him. His family, friends, and community.

He's on a path to becoming bigger,in a sense, than either MJ or Kobe.

Better will have to wait until his plan has fully hatched.

 
At 1/15/2009 10:21 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

LeBron didn't choose to form shit. He is what is because he just IS.

Seriously, anyone who actually compares LBJ to Magic must be on dust. Other than height, LBJ shares no resemblance to Magic. What a crock of shit. Nothing but poor NBA/ESPN/ABC marketing.

Michael Jordan once said the biggest mistake that the NBA made was trying to find the next Jordan, the next Magic, the next whoever, instead of letting these players be the first (insert name here).

Anyone who compares LBJ's passing to Magic, never saw Magic pass.

This isn't an anti-LeBron rant. I'm just tired of this nonsense.

 
At 1/16/2009 1:17 AM, OpenID jbravo said...

Right, I forgot - LeBron was hatched, not born. He is an island, and suffers from absolutely influences on his game from players past or present.

 
At 1/16/2009 1:47 AM, Blogger Nathan said...

LeBron shot 8/28 with 8 turnovers tonight. But he's the best of all time! Because he has a big body, averages 1.3 more rebounds than Jordan did, and his elite defensive and rebounding teammates are awful basketball players. Or something.

 
At 1/16/2009 4:13 AM, Blogger Tom said...

lol @ nathan - i guess stats made a comeback with you?

how do you even take yourself seriously?

 
At 1/22/2009 5:33 PM, Blogger logan said...

Kobe is two-faced... he cannot touch LBJ... the article on this site says it all:

www.undrafted.ca

 

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