Before you begin, you should know this list is not an attempt to tarnish Lebron’s game. The question: Who’s better between Kobe and the new heat superstar is not an easy one to answer. Both players are capable of dominating on both ends of the court and they each have shown a tremendous will to win. I firmly believe, if he should remain healthy, Lebron will go down as one of the top ten (maybe five) greatest players ever.
However, a deadly assassin known as the Black Mamba still reigns supreme over the shiny hardwood and isn't looking to relinquish his throne anytime soon. Many argue that Kobe is better because he has five rings, but I believe that measuring stick is outdated and inaccurate. Basketball is a team game and, even though the ultimate goal is to win championships, being the best player is all we can really ask for. Championships are just gravy for an already splendid meal.
It’s also no secret that Lebron supporters point to his ridiculous statistics to justify his superiority over Kobe. And, while I admit that oftentimes his stat line is mind-boggling, I don’t believe it’s the most useful tool in determining a player’s impact. Too really get a clear idea about which player is better, you need to watch them play.
Here are ten reasons why number twenty four is still number one
I've never really understood why someone would prefer to watch Lebron over Kobe. Yes his athleticism, strength, and agility is off the charts, but his sheer basketball talent isn't in the same hemisphere as Kobe's. I'll tune in to Sports Center to catch his run-from-behind block or windmill dunk with his hand scraping the ceiling, but when the ball is in his hands I’m not afraid to grab something from the fridge for fear that I’ll miss something amazing.
Kobe, on the other hand, has the ability to show me something new every play. His basketball repertoire is limitless. The spins, shakes, stutters, fakes, and everything in between is like watching a musician in complete control of his instrument. He’s mastered all the keys and rhythms and now he’s just playing to reach heights few, if any, has ever seen before.
Lebron usually just runs people over.
Kobe plays through more injuries than anyone. Strained left knee, strained right elbow, sprained left ankle, sore peroneal tendon, avulsion fracture to right index finger. And those are just from this season.
He even seems to relish the adversity. Right after he injured his right index finger he went on a scoring binge, averaging 36.8 points per game in his next ten.
Kobe is the most complete player in the NBA. There is no move he doesn't posses in his repertoire. There are no tendencies that you can follow, and no weaknesses to exploit. The only thing predictable about his game is that it's unpredictable. Kobe has more options than Lebron. Lebron is one-dimensional. Kobe is three-dimensional.
Kobe has been through the ringer. A sexual assault case, the Shaq wars, Tex Winter's "uncoachable" comments, Phil's colorful jibes, and an unrelenting media machine citing his "arrogance" and "selfishness." In recent years he's added a little polish to his public persona, but his scowl of determination during the playoffs and his one-word responses during press conferences showed us it might not be deliberate.
Lebron just took the first real hit to his image when he decided to leave Cleveland. Where he'll most likely be trying to patch that up, Kobe will remain feral and focused on what really matters.
Kobe's tireless work ethic is well known throughout the league. Each new season is another oppurtunity to prove himself the best player in the game. Whether it's bulking up or working with Hakeem Olajuwon in the off season to improve his post game, Kobe's desire to continually improve is what separates him from from most players. It's also the reason he's aged better than many of his peers.
According to Wikipedia, a black mamba “is an ambush predator that waits for hapless prey to get too close. If the prey attempts to escape, the black mamba will follow up its initial bite with a series of strikes.”
Kobe, in that sense, is very similar. He's like a chess player. Every move is deliberate. Every possession reveals something new. He'll jab you all night long and when the time comes to finish you off, he usually does.
Some players have all the talent in the world, but don't know what to do with it (i.e. Allen Iverson). While some have very little ability, but are able to maximize their potential (i.e. Tim Duncan). Kobe is that rare player who posseses both qualities. Whether it's watching film, talking strategy with his coaches or simply reading the flow of the game, Kobe has become an encyclopedia of basketball knowledge.
Kobe may be patient, but he's not afraid to strike. From spinning fadeway three pointers to win the game and shots from behind the backboard, to clotheslines with Raja Bell and scuffles with Ron Artest. Kobe won't back down from anything.
Kobe doesn't just want to beat you, he wants to suck your soul out of your chest. He wants to light your dog on fire. He wants to take your daughter out on a date and never call her back. He wants to make you wish you were never born. He wants to kill you.
Compared to Kobe, Lebron is like the Mr. Rogers of basketball.
Kobe doesn't want to be Michael, Magic, West or anyone else. He wants to be himself. He picked number 24 because he wants to be one better than Michael Jordan. Not the same.
And if he keeps playing at a high level for the next few years, who knows? Maybe he'll earn that jersey number.
I can't wait too find out.