Kobe Bryant and LeBron James: Why People Love One and Hate the Other

Erik LandauCorrespondent INovember 26, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 19:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers attempts to steal the ball from Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the forth quarter at Staples Center on January 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Ever since LeBron James signed with the Miami Heat, the East versus West fanfare has reemerged as if Biggie and Tupac were back on the scene. Kobe Bryant, of course, representing the Western Conference and coast, with LeBron doing the same for the eastern side.

Today's relevant Bird and Magic statement is over clichéd as there truly is only one Magic vs. Bird. Kobe versus LeBron does happen to be the closest thing we have to it today. It is a competition between two sides that we have been waiting to see in the NBA Finals.

Everyone has varying degrees of feelings toward the Heat and Lakers. Whether they are die-hard fans or bandwagoners looking for the newest, freshest thing on the block. They are looking for that team they can put their support in, not only from a presence in sports, but as an outlet for them socially.

They want a team that can represent the villain side as well. The Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees would probably be the base examples of this in the NFL and the MLB. Speaking of New York or Gotham City, both James and Bryant have been seen as Batman at points in their careers.

A likable, enduring figure which people have become transfixed by from their play or actions. Similar to the Dark Knight. They have also each caused mind games for those who want to fully embrace them or what they resemble. They have taken on the role of Joker as well.

It's fine seeing Batman do his thing against most of his foes, but there is nothing like seeing him go toe-to-toe against the Joker. It heightens the value of each character in their singular state as well as comparatively.

It's not as much fun seeing two Batmans; we need that villain to justify the hero.

For some, Batman is acknowledged as the King. While for others, LeBron fits the role of the Joker for taking his talents to South beach and causing uproar by indirectly suffocating the breath of every Cleveland sports fan.

Kobe fits the role of Batman for always coming out on top like the caped wonder as is evident by his five championship rings and his soon-to-be sixth. Kobe can also play the role of Joker for simply being the clodpate, arrogant being that he has been in the past and, to some, still is.

LeBron is now 8-7 after his Heat's latest loss to the Orlando Magic. There will be many that will be beaming from ear to ear to simply state: "I told you so. They are not that good." In the other corner there will be the consensus of "just give them time." Two differing opinions on the same sluggish and lethargic start in Miami. Similar to anyone having an opinion on anything really.

When we debate who is the greatest at his craft at the current time or in the past, it can create a heated debate. Take for example four of the greatest artists of all time, forever ingrained across our society thanks to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There is Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel, Raphael's great paintings and architecture and Donatello's superb sculptures. There also was of course Leonardo da Vinci who was kind of a big deal. 

Now, we would have a struggle deciding who is the greatest artist of all time; so for the sake of the argument, let's focus strictly on the greatest of these four. All four are great in their own right and an argument for them could be made. For me, my favorite turtle was Leonardo and he is also my favorite of the four artists. Some might say I'm crazy that I wouldn't pick Michelangelo, famous for his statue of David, as top billing. I just feel that Leonardo was the most complete artist of the four like many say of Kobe Bryant.

If the top four players today were going to be represented by these four artists, you would probably have Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade as your Donatello and Raphael. With LeBron and Kobe as your da Vinci and Michelangelo being considered the two most distinguishable personas. While many people will enjoy both Leonardo and Michelangelo, there are those who will dislike the other merely out of their love for the other one.

I am the first to say this seems far-fetched, but I have just seen the totality of a love-hate relationship in life too often to simply relegate it only to sports.

There is a desire to many to not like the person on the top of the hill or bring them down, as is evidenced by the way Cam Newton is being treated by the media. If he was not in the running for the Heisman and the national title like Reggie Bush was five years ago, we would not be hearing about his illicit actions right now.

It is that simple to me when relating Kobe and LeBron. There is so much love for one entity that the other is almost thrown in the trash by many. For me, I have a love for LeBron and a hate for Kobe. Having Kobe as a villain is an enjoyable thing to me in all honesty. He gets to be my Joker, and although my Batman would be Ray Allen, LeBron is still a great substitute for me.

I am convinced the Lakers are going to win the title, even if Andrew Bynum continues to be a bad growth on the side of the Lakers. That doesn't mean I can't stop enjoying LeBron trying to rise and take the title of "The King" that was bestowed upon him as a rookie.  It is seven years later and that nickname is still a focus regarded with question marks. Yes, he's made one NBA Finals appearance, yet he has not picked up a title.

James visits Cleveland this Thursday in what should be an electric atmosphere at the least. The Joker will be out to play against his old mates and Cleveland will be looking for their own Batman in the likes of Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison and Daniel Gibson. There most likely will not be someone who steps up to play the role of Batman to defeat Miami as a Cavalier.

That will mean it will be up to someone else in the playoffs down the road to give vindication to others by knocking off Miami and playing the role of Batman against LeBron.

That could be Kobe in the Finals against Miami. Or, that could mean LeBron knocking Kobe off the mantle and allowing anyone that is not a Lakers fan a sign of relief with a new champion. It is all a matter of one's own personal perspective.