Kobe Bryant Is the Best Talent In the NBA, But Not It's Best Player

Roger ValentineContributor IApril 30, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on December 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. 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 Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

For years now, one topic dominates all whenever people discuss hoops. At every friend’s house, at every office/school, and at every barbershop, people are asking: Is Kobe Bryant a better basketball player than LeBron James?

Frankly, the argument could go either way. Kobe Bryant is a proven winner that has dominated the league for the past decades, striking fear into the hearts his opponents when the game is on the line with his deadly precision. LeBron James is one of the greatest athletes the game has ever seen, and is one of the more complete ones in recent memory. However, I do feel that LeBron is the better player.

Look, Kobe Bryant is the better talent. He has a more diversified offensive game: his jumper is smooth, he can get to the rim extraordinarily easily, and he has improved his post up game by leaps and bounds. He is a lockdown defender when committed, and is an excellent facilitator when he wants to be.

LeBron James, by contrast, isn’t as skilled of a player. Granted, he has significantly improved his jump shot, but he is still susceptible to struggles when defenses pack the lane. James is a player that relies heavily on his athleticism, and when one talks about overall basketball dexterity, Kobe is the superior.

However, that doesn’t mean that Kobe is the better player. When one combines athletic ability with basketball skills, LeBron would warrant a higher status. He can get to the paint at will, and is a triple double threat every time he walks out onto the court.

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From this, you may gather that I am implying that Kobe, with LeBron’s athleticism, would be better than LeBron is now. However, that isn’t what I’m saying. Love him or hate him, most can agree that Kobe is an arrogant individual.

 LeBron, while not the saintlike person the media makes him out to be (I strongly disapproved of his actions last year after he was knocked out of the playoffs, and think he misled us with this year’s dunk contest), still plays the game with an unselfish mindset.

There is the factor of clutch play. If I was a head coach of a team with both players on my side, and I’m down one with 10 seconds to play, I put the ball in LeBron’s hands. This isn’t because I have more confidence in him making a game winning shot; rather, it’s because I’d have more confidence in him making the right basketball play. I’m not criticizing Kobe here, as I’ve seen him pass up shots when necessary. LeBron just does it more consistently.

However, if someone put a gun to my head and forced me to have the player actually take the shot, then I would have my team inbound the ball to Kobe Bryant. He’s proven multiple times over his career that he is capable of making clutch shots. I’ve seen a statistic where it’s implied that LeBron is the more clutch shooter because of his fourth quarter percentage of field goals, but I’d say that’s because of Kobe’s shot selection. In the 10 second case, Kobe would be forced to take a shot, and I think he’d have a greater likelihood of making it.

It’s not a knock on Kobe, really. I’m just saying LeBron is the more unselfish player, and he will make the better play. He also can utilize his athleticism so that he is the best player on the floor each time he steps onto the court. Either way, you can’t really miss here. It’ll be fun to see if we get a more concrete answer during this year’s playoffs.

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