Some laughed when Paul Pierce said over the summer that he felt he was the best basketball player in the world today. If you have been following the evolution of LeBron James, you probably would disagree with that statement.
But when it comes down to the big game, which one would you want on your team? LayupDrill.com editors D. Michael Lee and Brandon Ribak take sides on this very debatable issue.
LeBron James: The King
By Brandon Ribak
Standing at 6’8” and weighing 250 pounds, LeBron James is a total beast. Some people would say James is the new Michael Jordan of this era. With his physique and style of play, there is no stopping him from becoming the best player in the NBA. He has the ability to absolutely dominate anybody who attempts to guard him, leaving them embarrassed and ashamed for trying to prevent him from scoring.
James is one of a kind. He has vision like a point guard, the strength of a power forward, and the mindset of a superstar. His vision enables him to look at the court with eyes like Steve Nash, while still playing his small forward position. James has a career average of 6.6 assists per game.
“The King’s” body gives him an advantage nobody else has in the NBA. He attacks the basket while taking hits from the defense, and still manages to focus on the shot. James can dunk with no regard at all for who is guarding him. He is averaging 27.3 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game in his career.
What separates James from the rest of NBA is his mindset. He has been through his ups and downs throughout his career, struggling with his team and losing in the 2007 NBA Finals.
After observing the past five years, it looks as if James has matured into a veteran that knows what he has to do to make it to the Championship. With his talent and knowledge of the game, he is inching closer and closer to finally putting a championship ring on his finger.
Paul Pierce: The Truth’s Time Is Now
By D. Michael Lee
I have watched Paul Pierce’s game develop since his first game playing for Roy Williams at the University of Kansas. When he was drafted in 1998, I thought he would be a nice sidekick, perhaps at best a Scottie Pippen type player. During his 10-year career, Pierce has experienced some of the lowest of low points—low points that would have broken the spirit of many NBA superstars, but not Pierce.
The six-time All-Star never played alongside a talented team (besides his run with Antoine Walker in the early part of his career). Pierce endured one of the worst seasons in Celtics history, a time in which many fans in Boston thought it was time for him to go.
But he survived.
And with the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the Celtics leader was able to finally see the championship glory he had waited for his entire career.
While other superstars received the endorsements and national spotlight, Pierce was quietly getting better every year. His 23 points a game average is, while not the most among active players, very respectable. What he does better than perhaps any player in the league is raise his level of play against the best.
When the stakes are high, and the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Vince Carter, and Tracy McGrady are on the floor against him, Pierce is at his absolute best.
In a game against Cleveland in the 2005-06 season, Pierce lit up the Cavs for 50 points. After the game, LeBron James told the media that Pierce was the best at his position in the East. It wasn’t until last season, during the Eastern Conference Semifinals, that we saw Pierce face off with James in an epic battle. Game Seven will go down as one of the best big-game matchups between two future Hall of Famers in recent memory.
Also, Pierce dropped 41 points that night. As good as James was, Pierce was the best player on the floor. He advanced to the NBA Finals against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Guess who was the best player on the floor again? Pierce, whom Bryant and Lamar Odom guarded at times, made big shot after big shot.
I truly believe that 10 years into his career, the debate about who is better—James or Pierce—may be close. But right now, in the prime of his career, there is no doubt that “The Truth” is the most dangerous closer in the game today.
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James has faced Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics 18 times since the start of his NBA career.
Pierce has faced James and the Cavaliers 16 times since the 03-04 season (when James entered the league).
James has clearly dominated Pierce in every statistical category (since entering the league) by landslides except for rebounds.
Since the 03-04 season, James has averaged 31.16 PPG, 6.54 RPG, 6.38 APG, 2.45 SPG, and 1.15 BPG against the Boston Celtics.
Pierce has averaged 23.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 4.18 APG, 1.516 SPG, and 0.434 BPG since the 03-04 season.
The numbers prove that James is statistically better than Pierce head-to-head.
James is bigger, faster, stronger, more aware, and a better shooter than Pierce will ever be. The only positive Pierce has over James is a championship.
(But if Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers instead of the Boston Celtics, James would have a ring on his finger as well.)
Although Pierce is a great NBA player, he just cannot be compared to James. The King’s talent excels past Pierce’s and any other talented player in the NBA today.
LeBron James is the King and will be crowned the greatest player of his time.
P.S. King James would thrash Pierce in a one-on-one pick-up game.
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