Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade: Has Wade Surpassed Bryant as the NBA's Top 2 Guard?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IMay 30, 2011

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 10:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat posts up Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a game at American Airlines Arena on March 10, 2011 in Miami, Florida. 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 Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

When it comes to ranking shooting guards in the NBA, the argument usually begins and ends with Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade.

There are simply no other players in the league at the position who could even be compared to Bryant and Wade on any level.

However, determining who is the better player between Wade and Bryant usually results in a lot of emotion-fueled, subjective and speculative opinion.

Most fans of Miami will argue that Wade has actually been the better player the past few seasons, and although I don't agree with the statement, this year was the first that seemed to support their argument.

Age and the wear of 15 professional seasons visibly took its toll on Bryant this past season, and it was clear that he no longer had the former explosiveness in his legs that marked the early part of his career.

Bryant was forced to rely more on his jump shot and dribbling skills to foil opponents, since his lightening-quick first step had been reduced to a shadow of its former self.

Wade is younger and clearly the superior athlete at this point in his and Bryant's careers, but the perception that Wade has passed Bryant as a player is not supported by their numbers during the 2010-11 season.

Wade averaged 25.5 points per game, 6.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists, while shooting 50 percent from the field, and Bryant averaged 25.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists, while shooting 45 percent from the field.

Those numbers are far too close to determine who is actually the better player, and the NBA didn't make it any easier by naming Bryant as a first team All-Pro, while the coaches selected him to the NBA's all defensive first team yet again.

Those are not the types of awards that a player in decline usually generates, and the fact that Bryant appears on both NBA first teams while Wade appears on neither certainly would favor Bryant in any debate.

The media chooses the All-Pro teams but the NBA's head coaches select the All-Defensive team which should eliminate any notion that Bryant continues to excel solely because of his popularity.

Bryant continues to garner the respect of the NBA's coaches and others associated with the game, and although this doesn't mean that Bryant is a better player than Wade, it proves that the pendulum has not yet swung in Wade's favor.

Any debate as to who is the better player will still come down to a matter of opinion since there is no definitive way to make any real determination, although a few more seasons of wear should clearly shift the scales in Wade's favor.

Until that happens, the battle will linger on with supporters lining up on both sides of the argument, but the only real way to decide who the better player is may only come after both Wade and Bryant have retired.

It's much easier to compare and judge players of the same era and position in a historical context, and although Wade has plenty of time left to catch Bryant in that category, he certainly has a lot of ground to cover.