It's a debate NBA fans never seem to get tired of having. Both players are first-ballot Hall of Famers. Both players have came straight out of high school to make a huge impact on the league. Both players have die-hard fans who will defend their name until their opponent quits.
LeBron may be having a monster season in Miami, arguably the best of his career. However, Kobe is still better than LeBron, and here's why.
One thing Kobe Bryant can do that LeBron James can't is create opportunities for himself with the ball. The man puts on an amazing show.
While James would rather drive to the basket and draw a foul in the post, Bryant will pull up for the jumper over two defenders. It may not always be the "right" play, but it is definitely entertaining.
According to Sports Illustrated, Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill said:
"LeBron has the pullup jumper and he takes you to the rim. He has the two pitches, and, trust me, both of them are great. But Kobe is like the guy with all the pitches. He brings his fastball, his change, gives you something on the corner. LeBron will overpower you but you might know what's coming. With Kobe, you're never comfortable."
It takes a special talent to have not only that type of court vision, but also the ability to make those tough shots. You have no choice but to marvel at what Bryant is doing at 33 years old.
Some people think that clutch shooting is overrated, but in actuality, those game-winning shots can greatly affect a player's reputation in the NBA. Ask LeBron James.
James has received a lot of flack from basketball fans in recent years for his inability to come through in the clutch. We all remember the 2011 NBA Finals, where James was virtually nonexistent in fourth quarters.
If James is known for shying away from game-winning shots, Bryant is known for always wanting the ball in his hands at the end of a close game. In a January survey of NBA general managers by NBA.com, 48.1 percent of the respondents said they would want Bryant "taking a shot with the game on the line." James didn't receive any votes.
Need more proof? Basketball-Reference.com launched a "Shot Finder" feature that claims to track every shot taken in the NBA since the 2000-01 season. In the 2011-12 regular season and playoffs in the fourth quarter or overtime, with one minute or less left on the clock, Bryant has made 9-of-22 shots to win or tie the game. James made 4-of-6. While Bryant may have missed more shots than James even attempted, at least he's willing to step up to the plate.
If you ask any Bryant fan why he's better than LeBron, their first argument will most likely be, "How many rings does Kobe have?"
While there are great players who never won a championship—especially in the Michael Jordan era—LeBron will not fall into that category. A player of his caliber must have a ring to solidify his greatness, and Kobe has five compared to LeBron's zero.
LeBron failed to lead the Miami Heat to a championship last season and infamously pulled a disappearing act in the Finals. In the eyes of many NBA fans, if the Heat win a ring this year, a majority of the credit will be due to Dwyane Wade. On the other hand, Kobe has won rings with and without Shaquille O'Neal.
Truthfully, until LeBron wins a championship, he shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath with Kobe.
Kobe Bryant will go down as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
His comparisons to the legend Michael Jordan are well deserved. In fact, in the 2011-12 regular season, Kobe passed MJ for the second-most points scored by a player for a single NBA franchise.
At the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, Bryant broke another Jordan record. He surpassed Jordan as the All-Star Game's greatest scorer, breaking the previous record of 262 points.
Kobe's ultimate competition is MJ. That's why MJ watches him. MJ made people think what he was doing wasn't human. Ditto the Kobester.
I never said Kobe was better than MJ. MJ just told me Kobe's the only one to have done the work, to deserve comparison.
While James is an immensely talented player in his own right, he simply isn't Bryant, and has a long way to go before he can be mentioned with the greats.