You saw the annoying puppet commercials. 23 or 24, Kobe vs. Lebron, Beauty and the Beast. They are so famous that you don't need to use their last names when you talk about them. You can't go wrong with either, but the question is who is better? NBATV has already aired a Kobe-Lebron special "Dream Season: 23 & 24"presented by Nike and highlighting Kobe Bryant’s and LeBron James’ pursuit of this year’s championship, and intensifying the hoops debate of “Who’s better?”
Silverscreenandroll.com and ESPN.com are filled with tons of articles about the Kobe vs. Lebron debate. Who is the better player? Who would you want to take the last shot? Who would you start a franchise with? Kobe has three rings to Lebron's zero, but he never got a Finals MVP with those championships. They each have an Olympic Gold Medal, a MVP trophy, two All-Star MVP's, and two children. This year, Kobe led the Los Angeles Lakers to the regular season Western Conference crown, while Lebron captured the Eastern Conference with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs had the best record in the NBA, but Kobe and Lakers won the season series 2-0. All of these questions and reasons can lead to heated arguments in barber shops, on TV, radio stations, schools, locker rooms, anywhere. However, they are all pointless.
Kobe and Lebron are two completely different players and have completely different roles on their teams. The Lakers rely on Kobe as their dominant scoring option that sets the tone for his teammates on both ends of the floor. He leads by example with his desire to win by all means. The Cavaliers rely on Lebron as their primary playmaker who does a little bit of everything. Mike Brown uses Lebron's 6'8'' 250 pound physique to rebound, facilitate the offense, draw double teams and pass to open teammates. His leadership qualities are a lot more vocal than Kobe's as he shouts to his teammates when he's playing weakside defense and consults them during timeouts.
When it comes to defense, Kobe usually guards the opposing team's best player because of his ability to clamp down and frustrate opponents. Many of the star players with Lebron from the Draft Class of 2003 such as, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh stepped up their defensive intensity this year because of their Olympic experience with Kobe in Beijing. Kobe's work ethic on all aspects of the game rubbed off on the rest of Team USA. Lebron has improved his defense exceptionally this year, however he tends to rely on his athleticism to stop opponents. His help defense and ability to chase down opponents and pin their shots on the backboard or swat them into the stands has provided him with several highlight reels. He still has a ways to go though, explaining Kobe's 53 points on the 2008-2009 All-Nba Defensive First Team to Lebron's 47 points.
The most notable difference in Kobe and Lebron's game is their style of play. Kobe is finesse player who can score in a variety of ways; pull-up jumpers, fadeaways, driving the lane, pump fake spin move and off the glass, or simply twisting and turning his body in mid-air to avoid defenders and get a shot off. His basketball IQ is outrageously off the charts as you saw in Spike Lee's documentary "Kobe Doin' Work". Meanwhile, Lebron is just an absolute freak of nature who can bully his way through the lane for thunderous dunks and unreal scoop shots with his head at rim level. His jumpshot is much improved from past years but his form is still a bit odd looking as he seems to fadeaway with each release. Lebron has all the tools to have an unstoppable post-up game, but he's explained that "Sometimes being in the post gets boring." Perhaps, he will add that facet to his game once his legs get more mileage on them and he has to find a way to conserve more energy just like MJ and Kobe did.
The dumbest question asked when comparing the two is "Who would you want to start a franchise with?" Of course any person in their right mind would choose Lebron because he is 24 years old who has not even entered his prime and has unlimited potential, while Kobe is in his 12th year and on his last legs. He's played in 948 games and 34,531 minutes when Lebron's played about half of that.
Game 1 of the Lakers-Nuggets series compared to Game 1 of the Cavaliers-Magic series basically answers the question of who you would rather take the last shot of game. Ariza's crucial steal of the inbounds play and poise to hold the ball and work the ball around to Kobe allowed KB24 to isolate himself, drive to the basket and draw a foul and make it a two-possession game. However, at the end of the Cavs-Magic game Rashard Lewis hit a huge three-pointer with 14 seconds to put them ahead 107-106. Lebron isolated himself at the top of the key and drove to the basket, but instead of pulling up for a jumpshot or creating space to get a shot off, he passed to it to Delonte West for a somewhat contested three-pointer that clanked off the rim into the hands of Hedo Turkoglu. Lebron has always been praised for his unselfish play and ability to create opportunities for teammates. But when the game is on the line, there are moments where Lebron has to be selfish. He must live with the pressure of failing to hit the big shot. Yes, Lebron did hit an incredible shot with 1 second left in Game 2 to save the Cavaliers from a sweep, but he made countless mistakes in game 4 that could have tied the series and regained home court advantage for Cleveland.Former NBA coach and current ESPN/ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy put it best when he said he likes James for the first three quarters but Bryant down the stretch. "Kobe's basketball IQ, competitive spirit and skill set make him, unquestionably, the best closer in the game," Van Gundy said. "But James is younger, and nobody outplays him over the first 44 minutes."
There will never be a clear-cut answer of who the better player is, maybe because there isn't supposed to be one.