Will it be the Heat-or-Three-peat?
And that brick wall happened to be the Dallas Mavericks, the eventual winners of this season’s NBA Championship.
But does that make this season a complete failure for both these superstars and their respective teams, since both started the season playing like lions and ended it like lambs, almost as if they both instantly lost the meaning of the word clutch?
Probably the more intelligent answer would be that the Dallas Mavericks were indeed the ultimate driving machine that ran their engines far more efficiently than the teams they left in the dust.
And the underlying fact is that they played as a team that reflected a high level of chemistry on both ends of the floor, while both the Lakers and the Heat struggled with surprising maturity issues.
The Lakers were swept in the second round by a superior foe and the Heat were run like cattle in the finals by the very same cowboys from Texas, whose impeccable zone defense was an extremely efficient and effective weapon.
Kobe Bryant and LeBron James both showed periods of uncharacteristic helplessness against the Mavs.
One superstar is in the twilight of his very accomplished career that includes five NBA rings. The other is a dominant perennial force in the regular season, but has been unable to seal the deal in the playoffs—after seven seasons in the league, his fingers have yet to be fitted for a single ring.
James had extremely heavy expectations placed on his massive shoulders from the moment he jumped out of high school. And as if those expectations were not high enough, the self-proclaimed king increased that pressure exponentially by promising a dynasty for the city of Miami before playing a single game.
By contrast, Bryant is already considered as one of the 10 greatest players ever to play the game. But after a marathon of 15 stellar years from the age of 17 to the age 32 in the league, his remaining years are numbered.
Bryant is no longer in his prime and his injury woes are taking a toll.
While Kobe relaxes at home, feeling the warmth of his adoring fans, the king is out in the frigid cold while the LeBron Bashing reaches a surprising crescendo. It appears that even a growing number of Miami Heat fans have instantly morphed into James haters.
James is still only 26 and just beginning his prime, with at least another five dominant years left in him. The amount of hate towards James is ridiculous. The Heat were not expected to win a championship in their first year and Miami-Thrice are still all young and in their prime.
With required changes, the Heat can still bolster their roster and learn from their mistakes. And considering their payroll was some $30 million less than the L.A. Lakers, there is obvious room for improvement.
A countless number of articles have surfaced recently claiming that Kobe Bryant at 32 is better than LeBron James at 26.
Is this true?
Not according to my research. In fact, the records show that the statistical disparity favors James in every single category in both the regular and post seasons, with the exception of only Free-Throw shooting. In some cases the differences are marginal and in other it’s not even close.
But remember, this comparison is from this past season—not exactly Kobe’s best ever.
Let’s compare the 2010-11 seasons of these star players, where James is in his prime and Kobe was not the same dominant Kobe we knew.
2010 -11 NBA Regular Season
This season, James has the edge over Kobe in scoring.
Both Kobe and James remained among the leaders in scoring, where Kobe was the Lakers' clear No. 1 option and James shared the ball with another high scorer in Dwyane Wade.
James remains a threat from all over the floor whether he drives through the paint or pulls up for a jumper. Bryant has had to adapt to a less punishing perimeter game and his driving days, with the exception of a rare explosion, are a thing of the past. He still possesses a potent and fluid jump shot.
Both these superstars have the ability to turn on the switch and pour in the points.
James was second in scoring, exactly one point behind only Kevin Durant at 26.7 PPG in 38.8 MPG. Kobe finished fifth with 25.3 PPG in 33.9 MPG.
The differential here is marginal, until you look at field goal percentages, where James finished the season with 51 percent to Kobe’s 45 percent. James made nine of every 18.8 shots compared to Bryant’s 9 of every 20 shots.
In the NBA where games often hinge on scoring as little as one point more than the other team to bag a win, a higher field goal percentage is a leading indicator of a more efficient scorer.
Kobe beats James handily in Free-Throw shooting with 7.1 attempts per game at 82 percent, compared to James with 8.4 attempts per game at 75 percent.
2010-11 NBA Playoffs
Bryant played 10 playoff games before he and the Lakers were bounced in the second round and James played 21 playoff games, showing dominance against Boston and Chicago before turning cold against the Mavericks.
James finished with 23.7 PPG compared to Kobe’s 22.8 PPG, and their field goal percentages were very similar as well, where James dropped five percent (.466) and Kobe stayed relatively the same (.446) when compared to the regular season.
Both player’s three-point percentages were fairly low, where James shot 35 percent compared to Kobe’s 29 percent.
Kobe beats James handily again, in Free-Throw shooting with 6.1 attempts per game at 82 percent, compared to James with 7.4 attempts per game at 76 percent.
2010-11 NBA Regular Season
It’s not surprising that James has the clear advantage in both rebounds and assists, especially since he’s constantly being compared to Scottie Pippen, a player who also filled up the stat sheet.
James is not only a dominant scorer, but a facilitator who averages more assists than most of the point guards in the league and more rebounds than most of the centers.
Kobe also has been good at assists and rebounds, but this season, he’s not on James’ level.
During the regular season James averaged 7.5 RPG and 7.0 APG with 3.6 TOPG and 1.57 SPG. Kobe averaged 5.1 RPG and 4.7 APG with 3.0 TOPG and 1.21 SPG.
2010-11 NBA Post Season
During the post season, James averaged 8.4 RPG and 5.9 APG with 3.1 TOPG and 1.67 SPG. Kobe averaged 3.4 RPG and 3.3 APG with 3.1 TOPG and 1.6 SPG.
2010-11 NBA Regular Season
NBA.com’s efficiency formula is recognized by NBA coaches to gage the performance of their players across every meaningful offensive and defensive statistic .
In this category, James was the most efficient player of the regular season with a rating of 28.6. Kobe by comparison finished 19th in the league with a rating of 21.4. It’s not even close.
With regards to double-doubles, James ranks 13th in the league with 31, while Kobe ranks 67th with nine.
2010-11 NBA Post Season
During the post season, James’ efficiency rating was 26.4 and Kobe’s was a dismal 16.9—a clear sign that the veteran struggled in the post season.
Because James played twice as many playoff games as Kobe, a double-double statistic comparison here is meaningless. But if you look a the same number of games played, James is again ahead.