Asking that question is like wondering whether Steve Jobs is more important to Apple than Bill Gates is to Microsoft.
Or whether Mark Wahlberg is more important to the movie "The Fighter" than Russell Crowe is to "Cinderella Man."
Or whether chocolate chips are more important to chocolate chip cookies than sugar is to sugar cookies.
The same goes for Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and each superstar's importance to his team.
Bryant and James are very different players. They play different positions, have different body types and possess different strengths and weaknesses.
They also play very different roles on their respective teams...roles only they are capable of playing.
Take Bryant, for example. He is the ideal player for the triangle, triple-post offense: the same offense the Lakers have employed since 1999 when Phil Jackson became head coach.
Bryant's versatility and skill set are geared toward this very offense, presumably because he's been playing within it for 11 of his 15 seasons in the NBA.
Who would you rather have on your team?
The first option in the offense is the strong-side post, which Bryant can play as well as any guard in the league.
His back-to-the-basket footwork and fundamentals are among the NBA's best, but he also has the profound ability to face up to the basket and shoot over his defender, take him off the dribble or effectively draw a double-team and find an open teammate.
Bryant also plays just as well on the perimeter, where he can shoot from 13 feet or 30 feet at a high-percentage rate. Additionally, the Black Mamba can create shots for himself and for his teammates...anytime, anywhere and seemingly at will.
James, on the other hand, has always played in a less constrained offense, at least compared to the triangle. The offenses he has played within, in Cleveland and now with the Heat, have been built around him and his ability to create mismatches and draw double-teams.
James usually runs a screen-and-roll or pick-and-pop and then decides how he wants to attack the defense, depending on how the opposition reacts to the play.
If the defenders switch on the screen, a mismatch is created for James, who will either use his speed and quickness to take his new defender off the dribble if he is bigger than James, or James will use his height and strength to post up the defender if he is smaller.
In any event, the mismatch will create the need for a shift in the defense (either a double-team or a help-defense situation if James frees himself from the defender), which James is the best in the business at attacking.
If the double-team or help-defense comes, he will find an open teammate for an easy bucket, or if the defense stays with the one-on-one matchup, James will take advantage of the mismatch and put the ball in the basket with relative ease.
If you exchanged Bryant for James and vice versa, each player's efficiency and effectiveness on offense would certainly decrease.
Bryant would not be as effective as James in an offense that revolves around a screen-and-roll or pick-and-pop because Bryant's physical makeup does not allow for as many mismatches and thus double-teams.
Conversely, James would not be able to thrive as much as Bryant in the triangle offense because his post-up game is not as developed and consistent as Bryant's.
Thus, James would be one-dimensional in the half-court offense because he would be subjected to playing only on the perimeter.
If Kobe Bryant was a governor, LeBron James would be a senator. Both are politicians, but you can't compare the two.
You can contact Josh Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.