LeBron James is on the brink of winning that elusive first title.
He understands what it takes to win an NBA championship, and it isn't as easy as he had thought it would be.
Even now, at this point in his career, LeBron James has proven that he is a better player than Kobe Bryant was during his career—at any point and as a whole.
Keep in mind, LeBron has much more time to further improve his legacy in the league.
What does that mean? Only that the argument that he is greater and that much more impressive.
I appreciate that Kobe's fans are very passionate, so please digest the following points and provide feedback that isn't just heated passion for No. 24.
While doing so, keep in mind this article is not a denial of Kobe's greatness. Rather, it is an attempt to show that LeBron is greater.
There will be disputes of where Kobe lands in the all time greats. This article builds off some of my previous analysis of this comparison and will show you why, wherever that may be, LeBron is above him.
The award is called "Most Valuable Player" for a reason.
LeBron has three and Kobe has one. Other players who have won one include Allen Iverson and Dirk Nowitzki.
All stars, of course, and possibly eventually Hall-of-Famers.
There are four other players who have won three MVP awards: Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Julius Erving and Magic Johnson. All of these players are in the discussion for greatest of all time.
Don't be surprised if LeBron eventually wins more—which will put him in the category with the likes of Wilt Chamberlain (4) and Michael Jordan (5).
Of course greatness doesn't solely depend on MVP awards.
But, while comparing these two, remember they played in the same era. Kobe was nearly the scoring champion this year (2012), so the MVP award is pertinent to the discussion of these two.
In the three years he won the award, the sportswriters who voted for the MVP winner agreed that LeBron was a better player than Kobe.
You read that right.
Everybody thinks Kobe is a better clutch shooter, but the desire to shoot the clutch shot doesn't mean you will succeed in such opportunities.
Let's look at the playoff statistics in "shot attempts made with the intent to either win or tie the game within the final 24 seconds, during which a player’s team is either tied or trails by three or fewer points:"
Kobe is seven of 27 in such opportunities. How about the All-Star some people call a "choker?"
LeBron James is at an impressive five of 12.
In more than 100 fewer playoff games and 15 less attempts, LeBron has made nearly as many game-winners. He shoots almost 25 percent higher.
Also, LeBron has better performances in playoff games, simply taking over games against some of the league's best. That is as "clutch" as hitting a game-winner.
Not only that, LeBron's legacy was on the line.
He responded with one of the best playoff performances the NBA has seen. Hitting jump shots, three pointers and driving to the basket with a purpose, LeBron ended up with 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists.
The only reason he didn't have more assists was because his teammates just weren't making shots.
There was no need for James to even play in the last couple minutes of the game—he had suffocated the Boston Celtics for 45 minutes. Even when the Celtics made a run, LeBron countered with shots of his own—destroying any momentum.
That's not even LeBron's best clutch performance. In 2007, during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, James scored the final 25 points for the Cavaliers, including overtime.
Unlike Kobe, who has been able to defer to players like Shaquille O'Neal in playoff situations, on the Cavs, James was the only option.
He held down the entire game singlehandedly while the Detroit Pistons defense was trying to lock down on him.
Talk about clutch.
The Epoch Times rates that game as the fourth-best playoff performance of all time. Kobe doesn't land a single spot in the top 10.
Kobe had Shaq for his first three rings, and followed that up by alienating one of the NBA's greatest centers—who also happened to win all of the Finals MVP awards during the Lakers' three-peat.
Then, he proceeded to win a total of zero championships until 2009 when the Lakers added Pau Gasol to Andrew Bynum down low. He couldn't do it on his own while in the prime of his career.
All the while, LeBron was in Cleveland with players like Mo Williams, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao. Teams could try to key in on only him.
It didn't work. LeBron was a complete player who could score and pass. Unlike Kobe, he makes players around him better by keeping them involved.
His role in bringing the Cavs to the NBA Finals was greater than Kobe's role in any of his championship runs.
Kobe had Shaq, Bynum, Gasol and more in his rings.
LeBron had Larry Hughes? Anderson Varejao?
The expectation that LeBron should have won a ring in Cleveland is unrealistic because the NBA is a team game.
Look at the Celtics of the 50s and 60s, headed by 11-time NBA Champion Bill Russell. They had a lineup of Hall-of-Famers who dominated an era. They won eight straight NBA championships.
That is a credit to the team game that is basketball.
I am not trying to discredit the value of NBA championship. It is one of the reasons we love basketball.
But, championships doesn't correlate to greatness for individual NBA players. Bill Russell has 11 rings, but you would be hard pressed to find someone who believes he was better than Michael Jordan. Derek Fisher has 5 rings, but not a single All-Star appearance.
Even Michael needed Scottie and Magic needed Kareem.
Kobe may have more championships, but he played with players who complemented him.
Dwyane Wade will be in the Hall of Fame, but he is not a Shaq or Kareem. LeBron has had to share shots with another guard-type scorer, as opposed to a center, and he had nobody in Cleveland.
Rings are irrelevant when comparing these two NBA greats.
LeBron averages more points, rebounds, assists, steals and has a higher field goal percentage than Kobe in both the regular season and in the playoffs.
That is complete domination.
ESPN writer John Hollinger created PER (player efficiency rating) with the intention of measuring a player's performance with one number. While it may not be perfect, it is one of the best statistical measurements available.
Michael Jordan has the highest PER of all time. Shaquille O'Neal, David Robinson and Wilt Chamberlain are ranked three through five.
Sitting at number two is LeBron James with 27.2.
Where is Kobe? Down at number 18 with 23.44.
The numbers don't lie.
Read a popular article I wrote that further analyzes the Kobe vs. LeBron debate here.