Why Conceding That Kobe Bryant Is Better Than LeBron James Might Be Premature

Kevin LindseyAnalyst IJuly 11, 2010

MIAMI - JULY 09:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat is introduced during a welcome party at American Airlines Arena on July 9, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

Within moments of LeBron James making his announcement that he was going to “join Dwyane Wade’s team,” it became clear for many NBA fans that no matter how many championships Miami wins, James could no longer be considered a better player than Kobe Bryant.

Since his arrival into the league, James has been referred to as the King.  On James’s back the words “The Chosen 1” are prominently displayed.

Many fans now feel that James is not worthy of either moniker.

How could a “King” willingly surrender his throne?  James clearly no longer can proclaim to be the next King since he passively abdicated his throne in Cleveland.

If James is truly the “Chosen 1,” why was he unable to get other quality players to come to Cleveland?

The best player in the game does not leave his team to go play on another player’s team.  Players come to play on the best player’s team.

If you need proof, just ask Kobe Bryant.

Ron Artest was so eager to play on Bryant’s team that he stalked Bryant in the locker room immediately after his Rockets were ousted by the Lakers in the playoffs two years ago. 

In numerous interviews, Artest said that he told Kobe that he wanted to play in Los Angeles to make sure that Kobe was never manhandled like he was by Houston.  Artest thus came to Los Angeles to protect Kobe’s back.

The great players draw other great players to them.  Kobe is a great player because he gets great players like Artest to come to play for Los Angeles.

Clearly, we need to re-examine how we view LeBron.  Clearly, Kobe will always be better than LeBron.

LeBron can’t be the King.  LeBron can’t be the chosen one.

Or are we rushing to a judgment too quickly on LeBron?

James fans will likely remind Kobe fans that it wasn’t all that long ago that Bryant flirted with the idea of leaving Los Angeles to come to the Chicago Bulls.  There is nothing wrong with a superstar talent looking to surround himself with better talent. After all, basketball is a team sport.

LeBron fans will also look to Kobe’s career to justify James leaving for Miami to win multiple championships as opposed to increasing his career statistics. 

Kobe took on more of the offensive scoring burden in the years in Los Angeles between Shaquille O’Neal and Pau Gasol.  Bryant averaged more than 30 points a game in three of the years between O’Neal and Gasol.

Despite the increase in his offensive production, Bryant took a step back in the conversation of best players of all time during this time period because he was unable to get the Lakers to the NBA Finals.

Had James stayed in Cleveland the next three years, he would have undoubtedly improved upon the offensive and defensive statistics he has been posting for the Cavaliers.

However, if James had failed to win any NBA titles over the next three years, he would likely not have compiled enough championship rings to be considered the greatest player of his generation.

James could have averaged a triple-double in Cleveland over the next three years while scoring more than 30 points a game. But if Bryant won one or two more NBA titles in the same time frame, almost all fans would concede that what we had witnessed was Bryant becoming the player of his generation instead of James.

LeBron understands the history of the game and that the great players are judged by winning championships.  Consequently, LeBron has thrown down the gauntlet to suggest that the Miami Heat is seeking to create a dynasty that is capable of rivaling the Boston Celtics dynasty led by Bill Russell. 

The odds makers in Las Vegas like Miami’s chances as they are 8-5 favorites to win the NBA championship next year.  Some fans also believe that Miami, not Los Angeles, will be the next NBA franchise to three-peat.

For the sake of argument, if Miami does three-peat, wouldn’t James be considered a better player than Kobe?

Both Kobe and LeBron came into the league straight from high school, but, LeBron clearly made more of an impact upon his arrival into the NBA.

James made a statement his first year, averaging 21 points, six rebounds, and six assists a game; Bryant had a decent rookie campaign, averaging eight points, two rebounds, and two assists a game.

James is on pace to post better career numbers than Bryant.

James is averaging 27.8 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists a game while shooting 48 percent from the floor; in comparison Bryant is averaging 25.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.6 assists a game while shooting 46 percent from the floor.  

If the Heat do become the next team to three-peat in the NBA over the next three years, James will be on the same pace as Bryant for championships with both players having won three championship rings after ten years.

Winning one NBA championship is a very difficult task.  Winning three NBA championships in a row, however, is a monumental effort, especially when the roster is as decimated as the roster of the Heat.

However, if James and the Heat win the next three championships in Miami, there is no reason for James fans to concede that Bryant is the better player.

James may not be the “King” or the “Chosen 1,” but in the end, LeBron, in the eyes of NBA fans, might still end up being better than Kobe on the list of all-time great players.