Why the LeBron/Kobe Debate Is the Best Sports Debate in the World

Mark HauserCorrespondent IIFebruary 23, 2009

First of all, even if you are not a basketball fan, it is hard not to admit that the LeBron/Kobe is a great debate. In my opinion, it is one of the greatest sports debates ever (or at least during my lifetime; I’m 49) and currently the best sports debate out there, US or worldwide. I will give you several reasons why.

First, basketball is a popular sport; the second most popular team sport in the world and the third most popular team sport in the US. 

Second and third, Kobe and LeBron are easily two of the best and two of the most exciting athletes in the world. 

Fourth, they occasionally matchup against each other when their teams play.

Fifth, they play for two of the best teams in the league, and if Cleveland gets by Boston, they are very likely headed for a great NBA Finals matchup at the end of the 2009 season. 

Sixth, this is likely to happen more than once in the next half dozen years (like Bird and Magic, who met three times in the '80s). 

Seventh, in basketball unlike any other team sport, one player can have a significant impact on whether their team wins a championship. Hence, championships won (“rings”) becomes an important measuring stick in many people’s minds (hold that thought) on how great a star placer is...both currently and all time. 

(Only a quarterback in American football or a really hot goalie in the hockey playoffs comes close in this concept.) 

Eighth, LeBron, at 24, is on his way up and getting better every year. Kobe, at 30, is currently at the peak of his powers and while he may get a little better, he will soon be on a slow decline. 

Ninth, while Kobe was better last year and the MVP, LeBron improved more this year, has caught up, and is a very slight favorite as of today (2/21/09) to win the MVP this year. 

Tenth, LeBron looks like he is on the verge, if he wins several titles and MVPs in the next few years, to be the best, most popular, and most influential athlete on the planet (overtaking Tiger Woods).

(I’m exhausted—if those ten reasons don’t convince you that this is the best debate out there—then I give up.)

As for who is better, here is my opinion. And while it is just my opinion, it is the right one (half kidding). 

First of all, for those younger readers, as you get older, you tend to think less in absolutes and extremes as you realize more that life is not as black as white as you thought when you were younger.

Second, once you are no longer 21-years-old, you soon find out that you do not know everything like you thought you did. Third, allow me talk in extremes and absolute for a minute (in other words, allow me to be a bit of a hypocrite) so I can get my point across.

I will say this as nicely as possible without trying to insult people. Are you freaking crazy? Anyone who thinks that one player is "way better" or “hands down better” than the other right now, comes across like a second grader who lives in either Cleveland or Los Angeles. 

If you who cannot see that this is a dead heat or practically a dead heat, as of February 2009, you not dealing with reality.

Do you really think that if they changed teams and started the season all over again, that the number of victories by each team would change by more than a couple of games one way or another? Or course it wouldn’t, so stop it. You sound silly.

Another great thing about this debate is that it is so close (although by definition, I guess that would have to be true). They did a survey at the All-Star Game among the players and they were split 50/50 (you would think they would know), and the sports commentators and fans appear to split 50/50.

For heaven's sake, doesn't that tell you something? No knowledgeable and/or intelligent sports fan is going to respect your opinion when you make such ridiculously outlandish statements. It may make you feel good to say it or write it, but seriously, you do not come across well.

Since, by now, you are dying to know my opinion, fine here goes. It is a dead heat in abilities right now; however, if you put a gun to my head (perhaps some of you would like to since I just insulted about half the people who have made comments on this subject and for that I apologize), then I would vote for LeBron because the teams have similar records and the Cavaliers have less talent than the Lakers.

I really think it is as simple as that. And if some of you would put your personal biases aside for a moment and be more objective, you will see that I am right (more about it being a dead heat than who should win the MVP.)

(By the way, LeBron is the greatest, Kobe sucks! I mean, Kobe is the Man, LeBron is lame! Now, don't you see how silly those comments sound? And as a side note, I am huge fan of both players; that is why I am fairly confident that I am more objective than the LeBron/Kobe fans out there.)

As for who is better all-time, this is a silly question and very unfair to both players. For Pete’s sake, LeBron is 24, has played only five full seasons and has at least 10 more good years. 

Kobe, at 30, has at least three to five more good years. My guess is that LeBron is likely to get a lot better and Kobe will only improve slightly, if at all, at this point in their careers. 

Hence, since they are in a dead heat right now, LeBron will likely go down as the better player once their careers are finished.

However, right now, he has zero MVPs, zero NBA titles, and zero finals MVPs, so who knows? My guess is that is he will get about five of each and go down as the second greatest player ever, after Michael Jordan.

But, who knows? He could go down as high as No. 1 and low as No. 10 (Jordan, Abdul-Jabbar, Magic, Bird, Russell, Wilt, and Oscar, since you asked).

As for the argument that Kobe is better than LeBron (all-time or currently) ONLY because he has three rings to LeBron’s zero, this a silly argument for several obvious reasons, so please stop it. 

First, Kobe has played 12 full seasons and is 30 years old, while LeBron has only played five full seasons and is only 24 years old.

Second, (do I really have to mention this?) Kobe had Shaq early in his career while LeBron had no one of significance.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, I heard the same argument years ago by Magic/Bird fans (my next article) 20 years ago, and who turned out to be correct?  (Jordan fans, obviously.) 

I mean, as I argued to Bird/Magic fans 20 years ago: Do you honestly think that when LeBron’s career is over (baring injury) that he will have zero titles? The only truly great player that this has happened to is Elgin Baylor (whom I would rank 10th all-time and this is probably generous given his lack of titles) and this happened for a variety of reasons (mostly the Bill Russell led Celtic’s dynasty).

Kobe will never be as good as Jordan and right now he is probably around eighth or ninth all-time right now (along with Jerry West).  I realize the first half of this sentence is an absolute, but there is too much of a gap between Kobe and Jordan right now, and as stated, he won't get much better. 

(Just so that it is clear, it is not a large gap, however, the difference is large enough that Kobe does not have enough time to close the gap.) 

With the exception of three-point shooting, Jordan was as good as or better than Kobe in every facet of the game. Kobe could, however, go nuts in the next five years and go down as high as No. 2 all-time.

Kobe fans (or LeBron fans, for that matter), I have no problem with you telling me why you think that I am wrong about of all of this, because it is, after all, just an opinion. So please, go for it. 

But, hurling PERSONAL insults at me and other readers who make comments just because we disagree with you is totally unnecessary.

(Keep in mind, before you call me a hypocrite, you allowed me to be one in order to get my point across. Also, I only made a GROUP insult towards what I would label as non-objective extremists, for lack of a better term, which I think is a big difference.) 

In addition, don’t you think that the quality of discussion will be better and that the debate will be more enjoyable for all of us if you refrain from doing this? 

Let’s make this great debate a truly great debate!


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