The most polarizing question in all of sports. The only question that can turn a barbershop immediately on its head. The only question that has the potential of destroying the honeymoon night of two virgin newly weds.
That question is who is better Kobe "The Black Mamba" Bryant or "The King" Lebron James?
Before I explore the question at hand I would like to speak for a spell about to similar players before Kobe and Lebron.
Those players are Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan.
Oscar Robertson better known as the "Big O". The Big O was King of the stat lines. He was before his time,being able to score with the best with them while simultaneously setting up his counterparts was nothing short of spectacular.
His career stats were 25.7 points per game, 1 steal a game, 9.5 assist per game, 7.5 rebounds a game. He was a 83% percent free throw shooter and shot 48 percent from the field.
Oscar once averaged a triple double for a whole season with 30.8 points a game, 11.4 assist per game, and a whopping 12.5 rebounds a game. Statistically in his prime he is the best player to ever pick up a basketball.
The question that might be asked is, why isn't he known as the best? With all of the numbers Oscar put up night in and night out, How did Michael steal Oscar's glory?
With elite players being so close statistically the deciding factors comes down to intangibles. Those qualities of a player that there are no statistical categories for.
Drive, dedication, discipline. Heart, focus attention to detail. It's the intangibles that separate a star player from a champion. A one time champion from a multiple champion player.
Though basketball is a team game, the leader of said team is the drive of that team. Regardless of the numbers he puts up if he doesn't have a heart of a champion the team will not win the championship.
So even though Michael Jordan was a better scorer than Oscar with a 30.1 avg. He falls significantly short in other categories with only 6 rebounds a game, and 5 assist a game.
However what sports analyst the world wide fail to put in consideration are the things that really drive basketball. The things that don't reflect on the stat sheet. Which Jordan takes in a landslide over the great Big O.
So it is with Kobe and Lebron. Lebron puts up slightly better numbers than Kobe. Kobe is the better scorer if you discount the years where he came off the bench. While Lebron takes the assist category and rebounds which he should being a 6'8 260 lbs forward.
Now for a break down. Kobe is flat out the better shooter his mid range game is the best the NBA has seen since Jerry West.
Passing ability goes to Lebron. While Kobe has the ability to pass with the best of them and has the flashier passes between the two.
Lebron does it more efficiently partly because he looks to pass first which is not fundamental basketball from a forward who should be looking to score the ball.
Defense equal Lebron is a better help defender Kobe is a better one on one defender.
Rebounding goes to Lebron with a slight edge even with the significant height and weight advantage.
Basketball IQ goes to Kobe in a landslide.
Fundamental goes to Kobe while Lebron is great he is not a fundamentally sound player. He struggles from the freethrow line. He is a 6'8 260 pound forward who has a very weak post game. He has very few go to moves however what he does have he makes due with.
Kobe as far as fundamentals far exceeds expectation not only can he do it all on the perimeter, he has even added and perfected low post moves. Kobe has the skills set that Lebron should have given his size.
Clutch play goes to Kobe just check the resume.
Lebron doesn't even stand a chance in the intangibles, like Jordan, Kobe's life is basketball.
Kobe hates to lose, he is furious after a loss whether it be playoffs or regular season. Kobe plays every game like it is his last. His dedication is second to none.
He is the most accomplished player in the league and still the hardest working. That alone speaks volumes.
It is these things that go unnoticed to the causal basketball fan that elevates Kobe over Lebron. The fact that this is even a debate is further evidence why Lebron's name shouldn't even be mentioned next to Kobe's.
During Jordan's prime no one in the league was able to challenge him as far as pure skill.
The same with Kobe, in his prime it was a far gone conclusion that he was the best hands down. When Nash won the two MVP's during Kobe's prime it was the equivalent of John Stockton winning a MVP during Jordan's prime. Bull-Shit.
Everyone knew it was politics because of Kobe's predicament more so than Nash being the better of the two.
However in Lebron's prime not only has Kobe won a MVP award, he has won two championships along with two finals MVP awards.
Ironically the same years Lebron won his MVP awards and was apart of the best regular season teams in both respective years.
This isn't coincidence this is a direct reflection of what you do not see on tv. The hardwork, the sweat, the tears. Among other things the reason why Kobe is better at basketball then Lebron comes down to one thing. Heart. Kobe loves this game even more than he loves himself.
He sacrifices his body while playing injured. He sacrifices his career stats by taking the crucial shots his teammates shy away from.
He sacrifices his career by not playing the NBA politics unapologetic he always been the same person even when it gets him crucified by the media.
It is the same stubbornness that allows Kobe to still dominate in Lebron's era. Unlike Lebron Kobe doesn't concede to anything.
He refuses to let a bum knee stop him. He refuses to let a damaged finger stop him. He refuses to let torn ligaments in his shooting wrist stop him.
So we must ask ourselves is this really a debate? Kobe should not be a front runner for MVP in a Lebron era. He should not be leading the league in scoring in a Lebron era. Yet in the face of adversity Kobe is his best, while Lebron is his worst.
That's what separates them. That's why Kobe is better than Lebron and quite possibly the best player to ever play the game.