Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James: Who Owns the Throne of the Best Player in the NBA?

Michael FoglianoAnalyst IJanuary 10, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 25:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat during the NBA game at Staples Center on December 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Heat defeated the Lakers 96-80.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Ah, the Kobe vs. Lebron debate.

Will it ever end?

In the beginning of the decade, Kobe Bryant ruled the NBA. He was a fearless scorer who always came up clutch for his team and all he did was win.

People feared playing the Lakers because they knew Bryant would run a train over them.

Then in 2003, Lebron James was drafted first overall out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

There were many talented players in the 2003 draft class besides James including, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Chris Kaman and David West (apologizes to Pistons fans).

Many NBA fans knew they would all become great players, but they also knew that if any one of them was going to take down Kobe, it was Lebron.

The high school phenom was incredibly athletic, soon to be feared by every NBA player as well. He had all the right tools to take the thrown away from Kobe.

I forget which ESPN analyst it was, but he said that Lebron was the body of Karl Malone with Allen Iverson on the inside both coming at you simultaneously.

Is that physically possible to stop?

In his rookie season, he averaged 20.9 points, 5.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds.

A pretty solid rookie year if you ask me.

Later, he became the face of the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers franchise and a role model to almost every NBA fan.

Well, now that Lebron had established himself as a hell of a basketball player, the one question started to spark.

Is this guy better than Kobe? Who is better right NOW?

Soon, this one, little six word question produced never ending arguments and debates over the topic.

Lebron's better! No way man, Kobe's got the rings!

Today, it is still and most likely always will be fought over.

Believe it or not, this soon struck Kobe as an insult.

He was always the best and he knew he was the best. And even better, he rubbed it in your face.

Bryant would cross you over and brake your ankles so many times that you would just give up.

In the book The Art of a Beautiful Game, written by Sports Illustrated's Chris Ballard, Ballard states that when someone pulled a move on Kobe and embarrassed him around his teammates during practice, he wouldn't stand for it.

He would take it as a challenge and take you seriously for the rest of the session. Not only that, but he would make his teammate stay after practice and play him one and one.

Kobe would say, "Do that move again! Do that move again!"

Then, he would slaughter the poor bench player in a one-on-one game.

Just to prove that he was better.

A scar was left on that bench player never to challenge Kobe again.

Why did Kobe do this?

He did it because he wanted to be the best, he knew he was the best, and he really wanted to let you know.

That's also why he took it as an insult. He knew he was the best and wouldn't take no for an answer.

When interviewed about who would win one-on-one (a whole other argument) Kobe immediately answered, "Me."

Kobe's career is by far in the top five in the category of "most successful" along with guys like Michael Jordan and Bill Russell.

So how can someone challenge his throne?

Well, many fans have came up with numerous points to go against Kobe.

To start, it will always be questioned whether or not Kobe could have won all of those championships without Shaq, or even without Pau Gasol.

The presence of Gasol and Andrew Bynum gave the Lakers a huge advantage throughout the playoffs.

It was perceived as if Kobe did all the dirty work, even though he did not. Without Gasol and Bynum, Kobe would have one less ring.

Let's talk about Lebron for a second and let's also put away our hatred on him.

Here's a new thought:

What if you put Kobe on the Cavs and Lebron on the Lakers.

In my opinion, the Lakers would win every year and the Cavs would not have been as good as they were with James.

Both teams have a great supporting cast. The Cavs have Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams while the Lakers have Pau and a handful of adequate players.

Therefore, I think the supporting cast counter argument has nothing to do with terms in success because they are both very good.

I think Lebron does better because right now, he is the better, more talented player (keyword: now).

Sorry, Kobe.

One thing that Lebron has done and most likely will keep up is remain at his peak for the rest of his career.

He won't drop off.

Over the years, Lebron has been an out right tank.

Taking a look at the statistical side, Lebron beats him.

They both can score, but Lebron also has the ability to rebound and dish out a lot more assists.

Every year James has averaged at least six assists and seven rebounds excluding his rookie season.

Not to mention, every year he has averaged at least 27 points excluding his rookie year and this season with the Heat where he is averaging nearly 25.

And riddle me this: How can a player average 25 points when he is playing with Wade and Bosh and how in the world can a player score nearly 30 points per game, but also dish out the ball almost nine times?

Lebron did that in case you were wondering.

If it were up to him, he could have won the scoring title every year. He didn't have to rack up so many assists, but he did.

If it were up to him, he could have kept the ball just as much as Kobe, but score 40 points per game.

To the people that still believe that Kobe still holds the title, all I will say is that rings don't determine who is better and you are mistaking him for his past.

Lebron has zero and Kobe has five. That's true, but Kobe didn't get them by himself.

Last time I checked, teams have five players, not one. Those other guys I mind you are Gasol and Shaq and the Lakers also have the greatest coach in NBA history.

Oh, and another thing fans do is mistake his clutch ability. Just because he's the most clutch player does not mean he is the best player.

A perfect example of this is Robert Horry, or "Big Shot Rob". He was super clutch, but wasn't that great of a player.

Besides, in last year's playoffs Kobe missed two buzzer beaters and both were put backs by Gasol and Ron Artest.

Slacking aren't you, Kobe?

Also, the Kobe now is different from the Kobe in 2003.

Most NBA fans don't realize that Bryant has dropped off his peak of talent from his prime. In other words, he has lost a step in his game.

However, it shows how good he was in his prime.

How can a player drop off his peak, but still be the second best player in the league? That just goes to show you how good he used to be.

Having said that Lebron is better, if there was an argument of Kobe's prime vs. Lebron's prime, I'd give the edge to Kobe.

Now on a side note, I will say this about James.

He ruined his chances of becoming the greatest player in NBA history.

When he made the decision to go to the Heat, he took the easy way out even though he was already on the top team in the Eastern Conference.

If Lebron stayed with the Cavs, they could have won a championship(s). They clearly had the talent and just brought in a good coach in Byron Scott.

Now let's say Lebron re-signs with the Heat and wins seven championships. He still won't be considered the greatest. It's almost talent to waste in my mind.


Because those seven rings would be rings that he won with the help of two superstars. Jordan's six rings would be accounted for more than if Lebron wins seven.

Even Tim Duncan's four would be considered more valuable.

Did Jordan, Kobe or Duncan win rings with two superstars?


They had help, but not that much. And like I said, Lebron is more talented right now than Kobe and could have won numerous championships in Cleveland.

He could have brought a horrible franchise from the very bottom and bring it to the very top, but decided to take the easy way out.

Yeah, he will end up getting his fair share of rings, but they won't be respected as much as everyone else's.

They're cheap.

But if he stayed in Cleveland, they would have been respected a lot more.

However, we must put away the hatred on Lebron in this discussion which is something that some fans don't do in this debate.

We have to realize the pure talent that he holds.

It's clear that both of these players are great, and will go down as some of the greatest to ever set foot on the hardwood.

But who is the better, more talented player right now, you ask?

That my friend, goes to Lebron James.


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