LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant: Los Angeles Clippers Sparked Debate of the Century

Joye PruittSenior Analyst IJanuary 12, 2012

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 10:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat posts up Kobe Bryant #24 of  the Los Angeles Lakers  during a game at American Airlines Arena on March 10, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

LeBron James was sitting pretty as an early MVP candidate, while Kobe Bryant was festering in Los Angeles with a team that seemed destined for predetermined failure after the loss of Lamar Odom. The fall-through of the Chris Paul trade, which landed the elite point guard in Lob City, did nothing but push LeBron to the forefront ahead of Mr. Five Rings himself.

Bryant was injured and getting old. Or, so we thought.

After another 40-point game, this time against the Utah Jazz, Kobe Bryant has opened everyone’s eyes again. Even though there are still some who doubt his ability to remain this influential consistently throughout the season, Bryant is making moves to shut everyone up.

He and the LA Lakers walked away with a victory. It was time for the Clippers to attempt to shine against the top-ranked Miami Heat squad with all three star players on the court ready to take in everything Lob City gave them.

But, they were not ready enough. This was the second straight OT loss Miami suffered in California, and the tune is starting to run a little old.

Against the Warriors, LeBron James did not attempt a single field goal in the fourth quarter. There was a difference against the Clippers, but none that would propel LeBron in anyone’s hearts, minds, or fantasy league.

LeBron attempted field goals in the fourth quarter. He even attempted free throws. How many points did he score in the fourth quarter? Eight.

That would have been suitable had Miami won the game, and did not depend on him making his free throws and uncontested foul shots to put them ahead of the Clippers.

Time after time, LeBron missed free throws only to dig the Heat in a deeper hole, forcing them into OT.

Was it solely his fault Miami lost the game? Of course not.

The only score made in overtime was a three-pointer from Mario Chalmers. Besides that, the Clippers’ defense was stout enough to knock away a weak putback by Chris Bosh and stall any of Dwyane Wade’s attempts as well.

But, LeBron James is standing at the head of this team with his chest poked out screaming to be called great. The attention is on him; therefore any screw up merits a media and social networking takedown.

As the Clippers and the Heat met in the middle of the court to congratulate and console one another, there was something brewing on Twitter. The inevitable was rearing its ugly head. The Lebricks and the trending topic “More Clutch Than LeBron” was obviously going to flutter tremendously. But there was something else.

With the emergence of a rejuvenated Kobe Bryant and MVP talks swirling so early in the season, LeBron was immediately compared to Michael Jordan’s heir apparent, and it sparked a debate that may never truly be resolved.

Bryant was able to score 40 points for his team, and once again, be their primary victor. He was the reason they won the game and it was plain and simple.

LeBron James’ missed free throws were one of the reasons Miami could not get it done. That stood out more than anything else that happened in tonight's game against the LA Clippers.

Even when Chris Paul shook LeBron and missed the jumper, it was still flourishing that Paul was able to shake LeBron’s defense in the first place.

Let fandom tell it that would not have happened had it been Kobe Bryant. And so it begins.

The ultimate scrutiny has begun. Expect for each night to bring about more and more comparisons than ever before. These two men are going head-to-head for the MVP award, and either could make a case for and against themselves. But the moment one slips, it will be back to square one as if they had never accomplished a single feat in their career.

It would be as if LeBron James never hit a clutch shot in last year’s playoffs, or Kobe Bryant had never won an NBA championship without Shaq.

One of the greatest individual media rivalries has been rekindled, and we all have floor seats as it plays out.

LeBron James or Kobe Bryant? Five rings or the raw athletic ability to win now?

Which means more?

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