Kobe or LeBron? Black Mamba or King Cobra? For years now, the question has been which of these two juggernauts is the NBA's best player.
No one really answers. People just ask the question and yell loudly.
Regardless of what side you are on, it's clear that both players are in the league's elite. They've contributed heavily to their team's success this season and have earned a spot onto this list.
But did either make number one for the 2010 season? Who else joins them on the list? Does the top stop spinning at the end of Inception?
Two of those questions will be answered here.
Key Stats: 47 percent FG, 19.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.23 BPG
Portland's has been ravished by injuries (not including Greg Oden's inevitable one) this season, and they've needed someone to keep them afloat. Welcome to the S.S. Aldridge.
The big man has done exactly what the Blazers need. He leads the team in scoring, posts career highs in rebounds and blocks, and defends much better in the post, something he's been maligned for his whole career.
Key Stats: 52 percent FG, 38 percent 3PFG, 17.7 PPG, 7.2 APG
Divorce might be a distraction for some, but Parker's been completely focused on the court. In fact, he's got more dimes than ever, so why does he need Eva Longoria?
His numbers are all well above his career averages, and he's helped lead the Spurs to the NBA's best record thus far. Someone's got to pick up Tim Duncan's production due to less minutes, and the Frenchman has done it swimmingly.
Key Stats: 51 percent FG, 14.0 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 1.62 BPG
It's not often a guy who embraces the role of a "hustle player" puts up those kind of numbers, but Noah seems to embrace everything, including the NBA's worst hair style.
He was off to an All-Star caliber year, with a double-double almost guaranteed every night, until a thumb injury that will keep him sidelined for eight to 10 weeks.
Key Stats: 48 percent FG, 17.9 PPG, 12.4 RPG
At every stop along the way, Randolph has been deemed a "great player on a bad team." Whether or not that's true, one thing's for sure: He's got more double-doubles than In-N-Out.
Everyone who has never been in California just said, "What the?"
He's cleaning the glass like never before, and, although the Grizzlies are off to a bad start, he's been one of their few reliable options in Tennessee.
That includes the Titans.
Key Stats: 45 percent FG, 44 percent 3PFG, 91 percent FT, 23.4 PPG
The only thing that the Rockets are blasting off to is a higher draft pick to pair with the scoring machine that is Martin. He's become a top tier threat from the floor.
He's a few percentage points from his field goal and three point percentages being equal, and he's scoring with the best. His decreased minutes from past seasons have barely affected his averages elsewhere, as he is playing around his career numbers.
But Martin is a shooting guard, and he's getting an A+ for that.
Key Stats: 54 percent FG, 85 percent FT, 15.6 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 1.79 SPG
On a team with a combined age of a mastodon, expectations would be for the Celtics to slow it down and make the veterans comfortable. Just don't tell that to Garnett, who's ramped his game up.
When he's been healthy, Garnett's playing like he's in Minnesota. With his best rebounding year while in Boston, and more points than last year, he's taken the burden off the other older legs down low. His defense hasn't faltered either, giving power forwards nightmares in the post.
Key Stats: 56 percent FG, 17.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.52 SPG
Once Carlos Boozer left Utah, Jazz fans were counting on Millsap to fill the void. They just didn't think it would happen so fast.
Casual fans will remember the Jazz power forward's miraculous game in Miami, but he's fallen under the radar since. Teams shouldn't sleep on him, however, as he's posting career bests in field goal, free throw and three point percentage, points, rebounds, assists, steals and turnovers per game.
Key Stats: 46 percent FG, 36 percent 3PFG, 18.3 PPG, 9.1 APG, 2.0 SPG
Since the Knicks haven't made any strong pushes for Chris Paul yet, it's clear they realize the man leading their team is already at All-Star level.
They just never thought he'd be named Raymond Felton.
Coach Mike D'Antoni's style of play is perfect for the point guard. He's posting career highs in almost every statistical category, and his chemistry with Amar'e Stoudemire has been amazing.
Who knew Charlotte could bottle up this much potential?
Key Stats: 37.9 percent 3PFG, 15.3 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.03 BPG, 1.30 SPG
Smith has significantly improved his offense this season, but it's his defense Hawks fans are raving about.
Why? Because if he isn't playing on D, it's a 5-0 for the opponent.
The stats may not show it, but his post and perimeter defense has been a blessing for Atlanta. Despite his shooting percentage being lower that last year, his outside jumper, which is normally his biggest weakness, has been much better and now stretches the defense.
Key Stats: 51 percent FG, 80 percent FT, 18.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG
My favorite Martian received no love across the league for his play to start the season, but he's been nothing but All-Star material as of late.
December has seen Bosh become more acclimated to the Heat's gameplan, and he's prospered. His rebounding numbers have gone up substantially, and he's playing near his career averages across the board.
Key Stats: 52 percent FG, 89 percent FT, 17.2 PPG, 10.7 APG
Age normally gets to most NBA players and slows them down, but apparently, the Phoenix heat just doesn't let that happen. Grant Hill isn't the Sun who looks long from expiring.
In 2010, Nash has more assists than in his 2005-2006 MVP season, but in fewer minutes. On a team many see as rebounding, Nash aims to single-handedly drag his team back to the playoffs.
Because lord knows Vince Carter won't help him.
Key Stats: 57 percent FG, 16.7 PPG, 9.7 RPG
If you thought Dwight Howard and Horford would be shooting at the same clip this far into the season, congratulations, you get either the psychic or filthy liar trophy. I'm guessing the latter.
The Hawks' man in the middle is as consistent as they come. He's putting up double-doubles on a nightly basis and doing it on a meager 12 shots per night. He's also become a much better passer in the post, and since 90 percent of his teammates are 6'7" cutting swingmen, Horford's become a huge asset.
Key Stats: 46 percent FG, 23.9 PPG, 80 percent FT, 4.6 APG
Eric Gordon must not have liked the designation "professional scorer" very much, because this off-season, he worked on everything but shooting, and it's worked wonders.
For him, maybe not for the Clippers.
He's still a outside shooter, so it's a wonder how he shoots so well from the field. The Clippers' guard also currently posts career bests in field goal percentage, points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and turnovers without a drastic increase in minutes.
One of my friends says Gordon's on his way to being a Hall of Famer, and if this continues, he's going to be right.
Key Stats: 52 percent FG, 21.2 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 75 Dunks
Griffin has put together one of the most impressive rookie seasons in some time and has become one of the few reasons to visit Staples Center when the Lakers aren't playing.
Sure, the Clippers aren't any good, but Griffin is still a lock for an All-Star slot. He's gobbling boards with the NBA's finest, and his dunks are absolutely phenomenal. His team may not use the momentum, but nothing gets the crowd on its feet like a red headed throw down.
Key Stats: 46 percent FG, 19.5 PPG, 4.8 APG, 1.73 SPG
True, Ginobili has looked a bit tired as of late, but that shouldn't make anyone forget his start. Batman didn't need any Robin as his hustle and scoring propelled San Antonio to a quick lead in the Southwest.
In an increased role this season, Ginobili has relished the spotlight. He's above his averages in almost every category, and has made Tim Duncan's and coach Gregg Popovich's lives easy. He's been as clutch as any player this year, hitting buzzer beaters and making winning plays in the closing minutes.
Key Stats: 44 percent FG, 22.4 PPG, 8.1 APG, 4.8 RPG, 1.97 SPG
Westbrook is a guy who many thought would have to be an undersized two guard. Luckily for the Thunder, they were just dead wrong.
He's the perfect combo guard.
The ex-UCLA Bruin is closing in on Kevin Durant for Oklahoma City's scoring crown, but is not costing his teammates in the process. He's giving his teammates plenty of chances, reflected by his career high in assists, and his defense has given the Thunder extra possessions.
Key Stats: 47 percent FG, 37 percent 3PFG, 22.6 PPG, 9.5 APG
Williams knew he'd be counted on to score in Carlos Boozer's absence, and he's been up to the challenge. He's been firing from everywhere on the floor and been lights out.
His shooting percentages across the board have been above career averages, giving him a significant boost in scoring. Career highs on the defensive glass and steals have made him a huge contributor a talented Jazz team.
Key Stats: 46 percent FG, 38 percent 3PFG, 24.2 PPG, 8.4 APG, 4.8 RPG
In the absence of Joakim Noah, one would imagine Boozer would need to fill the void, and vice versa. Sadly, one would be wrong, because Rose fills in for all.
The former Memphis Tiger is no longer just a scoring point man, although he still lights it up. His assists and rebounds are easily career highs, and his three point shooting, a previous hole in his game, is now a strong suit.
And that's just on offense. He's also playing some of the best defense of any point guard right now.
Key Stats: 45 percent FG, 25.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.27 SPG
Shockingly (or maybe not), this is another ho-hum year for the Black Mamba. There's plenty of sting left in his bite, just nothing that hasn't poisoned opponents for the past 14 years.
People keep waiting for Bryant to fall off, and it just hasn't happened yet. He's surrounding his career averages in every stat, despite a significant drop-off in minutes. Whether you still think he's the best or not, he's certainly the model of consistency.
Key Stats: 48 percent FG, 38 percent 3PFG, 25.9 PPG, 5.5 APG, 2.40 SPG
Leading the league in minutes could slow down some, but certainly not Ellis. He will shoot even if he's out of bullets, and fortunately for the Warriors, he's making teams pay a lot more this year.
Ellis is in the hunt for the NBA's scoring crown, and he's steadily working on getting his teammates involved more. Golden State is no defensive stalwart, but Ellis has magnets for hands, getting in the way of many a pass.
Key Stats: 48 percent FG, 23.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.03 BPG, 1.5 SPG
Statistically, Wade may be down in the flashy areas, but that's all part of the team's plan. He's running the show as effectively as any NBA point guard, and can take over whenever he likes.
Now, ask Carlos Arroyo to do that.
Wade's maintained leadership in South Beach, and he's doing the little things to help the team win. His on-ball defense has been superb, and he's hitting the glass with the tenacity to out hustle the bigs. The Flash also worked on his outside game, which has come in handy as LeBron and Bosh get double teamed.
Key Stats: 48 percent FG, 42 percent 3PFG, 20.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.83 SPG
Look at Josh Childress, his face says it all: "Why did I let one of the NBA's top shooters go right by me?"
Suns fans are asking the same question.
Gay used to be just a high flyer, but his offensive game is now almost complete. With career bests in every official NBA category on offense, as well as in steals and blocks, he's all but locked up a All-Star spot with his offense, and his defense will simply turn the key.
Key Stats: 51 percent FG, 80 percent FT, 19.5 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 1.97 BPG
Gasol's face accurately describes his play against the Heat, but he's been stellar the rest of the year. He's lifted up a Lakers team that needed someone to fill Andrew Bynum's big shoes.
Playing against centers who outweigh him nightly, he's making the most of the extra minutes. Averaging his most points per game since he joined the Lakers, Gasol has stepped up his play in the post on both ends of the floor, playing much strong defense and passing extremely well with his back to the basket.
Key Stats: 46 percent FG, 28.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.11 BPG
Making lanky men everywhere proud, Kevin Durant is leading the NBA in scoring once again. Yawn.
Wake me when there's a surprise.
Yes, he has been a little down from his mammoth numbers in 2009, but that doesn't mean he's lost a step. Getting used to Russell Westbrook's emergence will take some time. Until then, Thunder fans can enjoy Durantula's career highs in assists and blocks.
Key Stats: 53 percent FG, 26.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.23 BPG
If it wasn't clear that Stoudemire covets playing for Mike D'Antoni, his 2010-2011 campaign will certainly show it. He's off to one of his best starts and is standing tall and talented in Madison Square Garden.
Sure, scoring a personal best in points would be enough for most Knicks fans. Beating his career averages in free throw percentage, rebounds, assists, steal and blocks is just gravy.
Key Stats: 57 percent FG, 21.3 PPG, 13.1 RPG, 2.55 BPG
Howard's been known as Superman for his defensive prowess, but his Kryptonite has always been his offense. This season, that's no longer the case.
With a clean new jumper and more post moves than the Raisin Bran box, Howard's ramped up his scoring to a personal best, forcing centers to guard him away from the paint. His other numbers may be down from 2009, but if he perfects his offense, Orlando will be much better for it.
Key Stats: 49 percent FG, 46 percent 3PFG, 16.4 PPG, 9.9 APG, 2.74 SPG
Hornets fans shook in their boots anticipating Paul's return from injury, praying he would return to his 2008-2009 form. Now, they are wishing he would have played like this two years ago.
Leading the league in steals and in the top five in three point percentage and assists, Paul has reaffirmed his spot in today's point guard Olympus. His points may be down, but he's got New Orleans back into playoff contention, so Hornets fans will make due.
Key Stats: 55 percent FG, 88 percent FT, 40 percent 3PFG, 24.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG
With everyone's favorite crooked jumper (especially Brandon Roy's, considering he didn't bother messing it up), Nowitzki has received a lot of MVP attention, and rightfully so.
Normally, it would matter that his rebounding is down, but the new Mavs roster gives him plenty of help. A jump shooter that hits at that high of a clip is unheard of, except, apparently, in Germany. He's become a nightmare for any defender, and has led his team to a tie for the second-best record in the league.
Key Stats: 47 percent FG, 24.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.47 SPG
Statistics lovers see King James in a downward spiral. With those kind of numbers, however, he's still one of the NBA's most dominant players and clearly relishing his new role in Miami.
He's still leading the Heat in scoring, and all of his other numbers are around career averages. The one thing that he's focused most his energy on is defense, so don't be surprised if he joins the All-NBA Defensive team. He's bothered some of the best wing players in the league, helping the Heat to their strong start.
Key Stats: 45 percent FG, 43 percent 3PFG, 20.6 PPG, 15.5 RPG,
The Timberwolves may be a disaster of a team, but Love's momma told him how to make disasters into lemonade. Extremely sweet, perfectly groomed and pale lemonade.
He's leading the league in rebounding, while simultaneously among the best three-point shooters percentage-wise (out of qualified players). Love saw a large increase in his minutes, and it's a wonder how he wasn't starting to begin the year.
This may not be the most popular decision, but give the big fella props, as he's the only reason to enter the Target Center. This by no means should be translated as "Kevin Love is a better basketball player than LeBron James."
Instead see it as "Kevin Love is the top player in the NBA this far into 2010." No need to throw a hissy fit.