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Kobe Bryant and LeBron James Will Ultimately Be Judged By History

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IAugust 3, 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

The never-ending debate concerning Kobe Bryant and LeBron James has entered a new phase with James' recent free agency defection from Cleveland to the sunny beaches of Miami.

For the first time in his career, James has a team that is able to match the Los Angeles Lakers in talent and star power, and the perception is he will assert his dominance as the game's best player.

In some people's eyes James is already the game's best player, and this may be true, but instead of continuing to argue an infinite debate, why not let history be the final judge between the two players?

NBA history has a way of separating the great players from the legendary ones, and although a player's career numbers factor heavily into the equation, the ability to win championships is the distinguishing factor.

For instance, many people view Karl Malone as the greatest power forward in NBA history, but when Tim Duncan's name is mentioned, history will elevate him because of his four championships.

Championships are a team achievement and Duncan had great teams, but so did Malone, and the fact Utah was never able to defeat Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls doesn't diminish Duncan's titles.

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But it does help provide a good closing point for an argument for history's greatest power forward, and when comparing great players most of the debates end the same way.

If Bryant's career ended today he would be remembered as one of the greatest players the NBA has ever seen, and perhaps the best player in the history of one of the league's most storied franchises.

That's not a claim James can make right now, and under that light, Bryant's career and five championships far out-distance James' career, but the tale is far from done.

It's presumptious to think James is not capable etching his name among the legendary greats of the NBA, because a title appears to be much closer to reality now that he has superstar help in Miami.

James certainly has the talent to continue posting incredible numbers, and it's hard to picture the Heat failing to win a few championships, unless they completely implode as a team.

Some people have said that James' legacy is tarnished by his decision to join Miami, but considering he has yet to really establish a legacy, and the ever-evolving perception around the game, is that really true?

If James leads Miami to multiple championships and assumes command of the Heat's team, will history view his achievement in a lesser light because of his decision to join Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami?

It's highly doubtful, and James is left with the opportunity to craft a legacy every bit as impressive as Bryant's, if he can lead his Heat team to as many championships.

Bryant, however, has an equal chance of adding to his legacy, and a sixth career championship is well within in his reaches as the Lakers return a team seeking a third consecutive title.

It's hard to compare Bryant and James anyway because of the differences in game, position, and size, but history always leaves a point of comparison between any players.

That category is career championships, and although Bryant currently has a huge advantage over James, it's not impossible to think James could at least mount a charge before his career is done.

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