When asked by NBA TV's Ahmad Rashad about which of the two, Kobe or LeBron, has had the better career to this point, His Airness wasted little time in showering Bryant with championship-fueled praise (via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel):
If you had to pick between the two, that would be a tough choice, but five beats one every time I look at it.
And not that he [James] won't get five. He may get more than that, but five is bigger than one.
Don't you wish all math lessons were that easy when you were in school? Better yet, don't you wish all disputes, specifically this one, were that facile?
Essentially, Jordan has broken down an argument that is still debated to no end into two simple numbers: five and one.
Forget that James has three league MVPs to Bryant's one. Forget that the Black Mamba has two scoring title's to the King's one. Forget that LeBron has spent the last decade breaking more records than Kobe has taken shots (kidding).
The only number that matters here, according to Jordan, is the number of titles won.
Not Kobe's point totals. Not LeBron's shooting percentages. Not even the number of individual awards each of them has won.
Just the rings.
And you know what? James doesn't care.
When asked about Jordan's comments, James simply shrugged them off (via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports):
It doesn't matter to me. If you take Kobe one and I go second, it doesn't matter. I don't get too involved in what guys say about me or if you take Kobe or if you take LeBron. As long as I'm on the floor and I make plays for my teammates, I don't do what I do for other people's approval.
The King has spoken but refuses to refute anything.
Who has had the more successful career up to this point?
Most would argue that the debate is more complex—that this comes down to efficiency, individual accolades and, yes, championships won. From there, a case could be made for either player; a strong argument can be built around Kobe or LeBron.
For "His Airness," though, it's all about the rings, which comes as no surprise since he has six of them.
And if that's all that matters, then it's hard to refute Jordan's mathematical logic.
Five beats one every time.