LeBron vs. Kobe: A Debate to End All Debates

Alec McAfeeCorrespondent IMay 19, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 19:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives the ball against LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the forth quarter at Staples Center on January 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

When breaking down the statistics of both LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, I found out what everyone else already knew.

These two guys are neck and neck.

What I'm trying to figure out is who is really the better all around player here. I don't want to just look at the overall scoring numbers (LeBron) or free throw and three point percentage numbers (Kobe).

I want to know if I put these two guys through the ringer who would come out on top.

I am going to argue from both sides and then give my final analysis. I feel it's the best way—the only way—to decide who is the best player in the NBA.

LeBron James

 James has accomplished more in his first six NBA seasons than almost any player in league history.

Only one other player has scored 12,000-plus points, corralled 3,000=pluse rebounds, and dished out 3,000-plus assists in their first six full NBA seasons in NBA history—Oscar Robertson.

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James is the only player to average a minimum of 27.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game in his first six NBA seasons in NBA history. Jordan never did it, neither did Bird, Magic, or even Kobe.

James has even gotten the better of Kobe in their eleven career meetings. James has won six of their meetings to Kobe's five, LeBron has outscored, out rebounded, out assisted, and out shot Bryant from long range in their meetings.

Think about it—it took James 12 seasons to win his first and only Most Valuable Player award while it took James just six seasons.

It has always been said that Bryant still has the clutch factor on James, I mean, Kobe is deadly in the fourth quarter, right?

Well yes, but James actually outscored Kobe in the fourth quarter of games this season and averaged almost identical clutch points per 48 minutes.

In conclusion, it is hard to deny LeBron's vast improvement compared to Bryant's steady play. James makes his teammates better, leading more players to being named to their first all-star game than Bryant has, and finished ahead of James in Defensive Player of the Year voting.

Kobe Bryant

Ok, LeBron is a beast, no doubt. James however, is on another level. Bryant can score at will in a variety of ways, while LeBron is still not a long range threat.

When looking at who is the better overall player you have to look at team success right? I mean Magic Johnson was widely considered better than Larry Bird due in most part to his five championship rings compared to Bird's two.

If you look at it that way there, is no comparison. Bryant has three rings and a career winning percentage of 65.6 percent while James has not won an NBA title and has only won 58.5 percent of his games.

Byrant is a threat from all over the court, while James can only hurt you consistently from eighteen feet in. James forces shots more than Bryant and turns the ball over more, too.

When you take a close look you also notice that Bryant shot 5 percent better from the line in the fourth quarter of regular season games, one of the most important areas of a game is late-game foul shooting.

Bryant has been a proven commodity in all parts of his game for well over a decade now, while James is still learning, meaning he still does not grasp all areas of the game necessary to completely dominate one.

So Who Is It?

Well if I had to choose who the best player in the NBA was right now I would have to say...LeBron James.

James has proven to be unstoppable. He has put his teams on his back and carried them to victories more so than Bryant (see 2007 Eastern Conference Finals—Cavs vs. Pistons) and has been more consistent in the playoffs of late, scoring at least 20 points in every 2009 playoff game while Bryant has failed to reach 20 points in three games already.

James helps his teams improve more than Bryant does. The winning percentage for the Cavaliers in the James's tenure as compared to the five seasons preceding his arrival has risen 21.4 percent, while the winning percentage of Bryant's Lakers has risen by only 12.9 percent.

In my opinion this is not even that close. James has better numbers across almost every statistical category.

In clutch situations—fourth quarter or overtime, less than five minutes left, neither team ahead by more than five points—Bryant actually has a higher field goal percentage and three-point percentage as well as more rebounds and assists per 48 minutes.

James is a superior slasher, finisher, and defender as well as being stronger and more athletic.Bryant may have a killer instinct, but James has a mean streak of his own.

When all is said and done, LeBron James may go down as a better NBA basketball player than Kobe Bryant, but who knows, these guys are neck and neck.