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LeBron James: 10 Reasons He Is Unquestionably Better Than Kobe Bryant

John FrielAnalyst IMay 9, 2011

LeBron James: 10 Reasons He Is Unquestionably Better Than Kobe Bryant

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    In every league, there will be a dispute over who is truly the best player of that sport. Whether it's in the history of that league or in the present, there have always been arguments or conflicts between multiple parties dealing with who is the best of that sport.

    Over the past few years in the NBA, there has been no bigger dispute between two players than LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

    It's a dispute between one of the best finesse players and one of the best power players in the league, as each person has a clear-cut argument for why they could currently be considered the best.

    You could provide an argument for each player, with LeBron's athleticism supporting his cause and Kobe's leadership skills giving him support. Both players are among the most gifted basketball players to walk the earth and there really isn't a wrong answer. Both players are equally amazing, and both players are equally gifted in their own right and in their own way.

    However, we're going to give the advantage to the Miami Heat's LeBron James this time around.

    With a perfect balance of power, strength and agility, James has utilized his gifts from God to his advantage by becoming the best player in the world. At only 26 years old, James still has time to grow and could just be entering his prime if he can begin to consistently hit his jump shots.

    As the most athletic player in the league, though, taking shots from beyond the paint would be like a pilot with a private jet going everywhere by car. James has used his athleticism to his advantage, and it has translated to absurd success in all aspects that most players won't achieve in their lifetime.

    The next time you get into a heated NBA argument dealing with this situation and you want to give a case to LeBron being the best, here are 10 reasons you can give why James is undoubtedly the better player.

No Off-Court Troubles

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    You can knock "The Decision" all you want, but it doesn't compare to the off-court troubles that plagued Kobe Bryant's career for a few seasons.

    It was eight years ago, in the summer of 2003, that Bryant was accused of rape during a rehabilitation treatment in Colorado.

    The charges were extremely serious and could have warranted a great deal of prison time had he been convicted. However, a little more than a year later, the charges were dropped and Bryant walked away with only his pride, dignity and a few sponsorships lost.

    It's off-the-court troubles like these that can greatly affect the outcome of a season.

    Even though his Los Angeles Lakers would advance to the NBA Finals the following season, you would have to imagine that Bryant's psyche at some points during the season had to be affected by the thought of possibly spending the next few years in a maximum-security prison and losing his family and career in the process.

    LeBron James hasn't had any legal troubles aside from allegations prior to his NBA career of him receiving expensive SUVs from agents.

Not Going to Run Anyone off the Team

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    When you have a teammate as quality as Shaquille O'Neal nearing the end of his prime, the last thing you would want to do is upset him and have his game affected.

    Sure enough, that's what happened by the end of O'Neal's tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Before his eventual departure in the summer of 2004, the two had been feuding for years dealing with issues such as leadership, conditioning and the effort between being an individual and a team player.

    Bryant and O'Neal were winning the unhappiest championships and were pointing fingers at each other for any failures that the team had.

    Even after Shaq took his talents to South Beach and during the years of mediocrity with the likes of Kwame Brown and Smush Parker in the Lakers starting lineup, Bryant was caught on an amateur video denouncing the front office personnel and the team's young center, Andrew Bynum.

    The video dealt with Bryant openly saying that the Lakers front office was a mess and that the team should have shipped out Bynum when they had the chance.

    Critics might say that LeBron James ran away from his troubles in Cleveland, but he never once brought troubles to the organization. In the seven years that he spent there, he only brought prosperity and basketball to a city that idolized and worshiped him.

    The departure was wrong in every kind of way, but James did all he could in his power to bring the city a title with a subpar supporting cast.

Offensive Facilitator

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    As far as scoring goes, there aren't many people in the league that were better at it than Kobe Bryant was when he was averaging 35 points per game, including scoring 81 points in 48 minutes.

    However, as far as being a complete offensive facilitator goes, there aren't many players better at it than LeBron James.

    He was able to lead a team where Larry Hughes and Eric Snow were his second and third scoring options to an NBA Finals, and he was able to complete that because he has the talent to make his teammates look a lot better than they are.

    LeBron is one of the best in the league at being able to involve his teammates, and it has translated to individual and some postseason success.

    James has never averaged less than six assists per game in his career and has averaged seven assists per game over the past eight years. He set his career-high two seasons ago when he came up a few percentage points short of averaging nine per game.

    While Bryant is one of the best scorers in the game, it doesn't always translate to him being able to will his team to victory.

    At the ends of games, Bryant sometimes thinks it's solely in his power to be able to lead his team to a win, even though it is completely possible for any of his All-Star-caliber teammates to hit the final shot as well.

    Kobe's career high in assists was six per game in the 2004-05 season, and he is averaging less than five per game for his career.

    As much postseason and individual success as he has had in his career, the fact that he has also not been an offensive facilitator for his team has also given the team its fair share of failures over his career as well.

More Individual Success Completed in Less Time

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    If you honestly compare Kobe Bryant and his five championship rings with LeBron James and his zero, you're really reaching for reasons to dispute why Bryant is the better player.

    Kobe has been benefited with not only having one of the best coaches in NBA history, but also arguably the best post player in NBA history for the three-peat and then one of the better post players for the two most recent titles.

    LeBron hasn't received too much help from his organization until going to the talent in Miami, but he has received plenty of more individual success in his eight years of playing time than Bryant did in his first eight seasons in the league.

    In Bryant's first eight years, he averaged over 25 points per game three times in his career and didn't shoot better than 47 percent.

    Compare that to James, who averaged under 25 points per game only once in his career and has shot over 50 percent over the past two seasons, shooting 51 percent most recently.

    James has also secured two MVPs in only eight seasons and has been in the conversation in just about every year. Bryant has secured one MVP, and that didn't come until the 2007-08 season after over a decade's worth of being in the NBA.

    When you compare their first eight years in the league, Bryant certainly has the rings to show off the team success, but he doesn't have the hardware that shows off the individual success.

Better All-Around Player

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    To distinguish who the better all-around player is, all you simply need to do is look at the career stats of each player:

    LeBron James: 27.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 7 APG, 1.7 APG and 0.8 BPG.

    Kobe Bryant: 25.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.5 APG and 0.5 BPG.

    You can give Kobe a handicap when it comes to the stats due to him only starting in seven games for the first two years of his career, yet even then it is still obvious to see that James is the more complete player.

    In his prime, Bryant was the better scorer, but James has always been the better rebounder and the better passer.

    When it comes to playing team basketball, the more complete basketball player will usually see the most success. Of course, Bryant has obviously seen more success as a player with five NBA championships, but he has also had the benefit of playing on teams alongside some of the best post presences in the league at the time.

    The best post presence James has played with prior to playing in Miami? It's your choice between a prime Zydrunas Ilgauskas, an over-the-hill Antawn Jamison or an over-the-hill Shaquille O'Neal.

    James will get his championships in due time because he's an unselfish player who is willing to play at all aspects of the game aside from just scoring.

    Considering that he's still averaging 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists with the Heat this year, it shouldn't come as a surprise if he is able to lead Miami to their second title in franchise history by the end of June.

Willing to Pass Up the Last Shot

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    There is no doubt that Kobe Bryant is arguably the best closer in the NBA, but sometimes there needs to be some sort of discretion when taking a difficult shot as an attempt to win a game or allowing someone else on your team to take the glory of making the open shot.

    Kobe's killer instinct is what allows him to be recognized as one of the most dangerous players in late-game situations, but it has also hurt his team on many occasions as well.

    At times, Bryant looks to be the hero too much and would be willing to play in isolation where the offense is solely centered around him as he attempts to find the shot that's going to put his team ahead rather than looking for a teammate who can take the easier shot.

    LeBron has had his fair share of struggles finishing this season, but he has also greatly helped his team by being an unselfish player late in games.

    Take, for instance, the video posted with this slide.

    On the road in a hostile environment and his team down by one, LeBron had the ball in his hands for a wide open three-pointer with a smaller defender closing in on him. Instead of taking the shot, James elected to pass it to the veteran shooting specialist in Eddie House, who would drain the three-pointer and give the Heat the eventual win.

    Sometimes, the low-risk reward of passing it to the man who makes the shot is worth more than the high-risk reward of taking the difficult shot to win the game.

Better Finisher Around the Rim

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    Kobe Bryant might have one of the deadliest jump shots in the game, but he also has a terrific inside game to go along with it.

    His ability to lift off without needing more than a few dribbles or being able to hang in the air over a few quarters is what has allowed Bryant to thrive so often in the paint for over 15 years.

    Bryant's finesse and strength have been key components of his livelihood in the paint, but it doesn't compare to the unmitigated strength that LeBron James uses in every one of his drives.

    At 6'8" and nearly 275 pounds, LeBron has the power, strength and the agility to be able to beat out any defender in the paint while also being able to overpower them.

    One of James' weaknesses has been his inconsistency in his jump shot, but it's been his strength over the course of his career to use his athletic frame in the paint that has allowed him to average over 30 points per game twice over the past eight seasons.

    As a player that thrives in the paint, LeBron always finds the highest-percentage shots and usually finds easier ways to get to the line.

    LeBron has the advantage of being more athletically gifted, but it still takes plenty of skill to be able to learn how to use that size and strength.

Athleticism

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    Aside from Dwight Howard and Josh Smith, there are no players in the NBA that can compete with the athleticism that LeBron James possesses.

    There have been plenty of athletic players in the league's history, but they fail to match what James can bring to the table on any given night.

    LeBron is able to use his power and strength to bully opposing defenders and find buckets in the paint while also containing the agility and speed to outrace and keep up with even the speediest of guards.

    Bryant is no doubt an athletic player in his own right and has shown on a countless number of occasions just how lethal he can be when given some space to explode to the rim.

    However, he doesn't contain the unmatched combination of speed and strength that James possesses.

    It's those qualities that have allowed James to thrive as an inexperienced young player and also what's going to help him propel him to even higher expectations later on.

    LeBron's athleticism has been the staple in his career thus far, and he will continue to use it to his advantage before his body begins to wear down (in a decade). The hits that he has taken over his career haven't affected him as much as they would a smaller player because of how resilient his body is.

    It has shown, as he has only missed 29 games over eight years, with a few of those games coming at the end of a regular season as a means to rest.

Brighter Future

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    Aside from athleticism, one of the greatest advantages LeBron James currently holds over Kobe Bryant is the outlook on the future.

    Bryant will be 32 years old and will be entering his 16th season in the league compared to James, who will turn 27 at the end of December and will be only entering his ninth season.

    Kobe's body has experienced more wear and tear than probably any other player in the league, and it's beginning to catch up to him, as we see significant injuries affecting his game.

    James has yet to have any significant injury, as his athleticism allows him to steer clear of any ailments that would him to sit out for an extended period of time.

    The outlook on each others' teams differ as well, with Bryant's Lakers getting swept at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, while James' Miami Heat are up 2-1 in their conference semifinal series against the  Boston Celtics. LeBron also has him playing with the likes of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for the next five years, as they have begun to prove that this brand new Big Three experiment can and will work.

    Whether it will work in the postseason, we'll begin to see, but it has been so far so good for the Heat, as they won in five games over the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round and have proven in their three games against the Celtics that they are plenty capable of keeping up with the elite teams of the league.

    To simply put it: Kobe's on the downside of his career while James is just entering his prime.

Better Teammate

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    There was a reason why Shaquille O'Neal wanted out of Los Angeles, and it certainly wasn't just for a change of scenery.

    Kobe might be one of the best individual players to play the game of organized basketball, but he has also been recognized by teammates as selfish and a ball hog.

    As I stated in the slide dealing with late-game situations, Kobe sometimes would rather play hero ball than look for the higher-percentage shot from a teammate.

    LeBron's stats prove otherwise, as he has averaged seven assists per game for his career and has elected to have teammates take the final shot rather than himself. This year with the Miami Heat has proven just how well of a teammate he can be, as he managed to put his ego aside by deciding to play alongside All-Stars in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

    After much speculation of just how well the trio could play together, they finished the 2010-11 campaign at 58-24 with the No. 2 seed and have their eyes on the Eastern Conference Finals after taking two of the first three games of the semifinals.

    James has shared the role of floor leader with Wade, and it has only translated to success.

    With LeBron sharing the spotlight, he can now look forward to a more legitimate shot at winning a title than ever before.

    By joining Miami and thriving in his first season there, even after the rocky start, it has shown just how well James can play when playing alongside players that could be No. 1 options and how resilient he can play when the tables are turned against him.

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