Going into this year's playoffs, there was one thing that was constantly talked about—almost regardless of what teams were actually playing:
Who's better: You or Kobe?
Your regular season numbers were off the charts:
28.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, and 7.2 apg
Then, you increased your scoring for the postseason to 35 points and grabbed two more rebounds a game. Not only that, but you cut your turnovers in half for the first two rounds, too.
Still, some said Kobe out-did you, because he was doing it against "better" competition.
Like it's your fault you had to play hopeless Detroit and that immature AND 1—I mean Atlanta Hawks team—while Kobe did battle with the Jazz and the Rockets. Everyone knows that most of the Eastern Conference wouldn't be an eighth seed in the West.
But when the Orlando Magic overcame the depleted Celtics, I said, "Finally a real challenge for LeBron. A chance to show off your greatness."
You did not disappoint.
In Game One, dropping in 49 points on a very efficient 20-30 from the floor along with six boards and eight assists. I mean, yeah the Cavs lost, but that loss can't be put at your feet. No sir! Your teammates combined to only hit three more shots from the floor than you did by yourself!
The next game you cashed in 35 points and again your teammates failed you, but this time you were able to hit an incredible three-point shot. No, it was not better than Jordan over Craig Ehlo, don't be silly. But it was still a great shot.
When Game Three in Orlando came around, it was clear that your teammates were determined to head home for the summer. How else can you explain them making you take 28 shots that game? You did manage to collect nine assists, but it was clear from the opening tip that your teammates were scared of the Magic, which is why you go into Game Four down two-games-to-one.
Another game, but the same story. Not only are you forced to jack up 29 shots, but you commit eight turnovers as well—all because the other Cavs players simply refuse to be where they're supposed to be! Now you're down 3-1.
Which leads you to desperation in Game Five, and I guess the only way the Cavs can win is if you get a triple-double every night. At least Mo finally learned how to knock down an open shot. The series is now 3-2 and I start thinking maybe this is the turning point...
Or maybe not.
You're obviously exhausted from carrying this team for so many games. That's the only reason for going 8-20 in a game like this. It also explains the fact that—despite being known as an excellent sportsman—you neglected to shake the opposing team's hands at the end of the game. You were just tired and wanting some rest. I understand completely.
Despite the fact you won't be in the Finals, I think you've proven without a doubt that the whole "you vs. Kobe" thing is a stupid debate.
Because you're still an obvious second.
You deserved your MVP award this year, no one would guarantee the Cavs a playoff spot without you on the roster, but being the most valuable doesn't make you the best player.
The most exciting? That I think you've got.
But the Orlando series was an illustration of the gap between you and Kobe.
You led, but did anybody follow?
Say what you want about Kobe, he gets guys to believe. So did Jordan—another guy considered the best at his time. Don't get me wrong, Kobe isn't Jordan anymore than you are Magic. Nor are either of you better than those that have come before, each era is time unto itself. But Kobe is the better product now.
He understands the game better.
You score more points, but the points he scores are more important because of when he does. When a team is trying to pick itself off the mat, Kobe is ready to deliver the uppercut that says emphatically: "Stay down!"
You have more assists, but his assists not only get teammates points, but it gets them looking for their own shot. He is perfectly content to let the game become the Trevor Ariza show—or Pau Gasol tonight. He knows when to be a play-maker and when to let other guys make plays.
You still try to dominate the basketball, of course it doesn't help that some coaches and others think that's what you should do.
I could go on but the Conference Finals made things abundantly clear. So much so that we don't need to see a Kobe/LeBron NBA finals to know who's better, no matter how much Stern and his boys wanted it.
And for that I thank you.
Now hopefully we can resume the debate in 2013.