7 Reasons Why Kobe Bryant is Better Than LeBron James
7 Reasons Why Kobe Bryant is Better Than LeBron James
Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are two of the best players in the NBA. Bryant, although aging, at 34 years old, is leading the NBA in scoring with 27.7 PPG. James is coming off of his first NBA Championship, in a season in which he was Finals MVP, the league’s MVP, and a gold medalist in the Olympics, along with Bryant.
James and Bryant are both legendary players, and will certainly go down in history as two of the best of all time. But who is the better player? The answer is Bryant, the Black Mamba, because of several factors that distinguish him from the league’s greats, including James. Those factors are both based on statistics and my own observations, as well as the input of some of the greatest basketball minds in the world.
Both players did not attend college, getting drafted straight out of high school. Fun fact: Bryant used the phrase “I’m taking my talents…” before James did in his famous ESPN special called “The Decision,” in which he announced where he would be signing after the 2009-10 season.
Bryant and James have grown to be good friends through the Olympics, but on the court, they are enemies. There are definite similarities between them: they are both truly awesome players, elite scorers, perennial all-stars, and fan favorites. However, there are also significant differences that separate them from each other. James is better at making his teammates better, is a better distributor, a better defender, and rebounder. But, Bryant is Michael Jordan-esque, something that James, more like Magic Johnson, will never be.
7. Who is the Franchise Player?
Bryant was drafted from Lower Merion High School to the Charlotte Hornets, but was then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996-97, and has worn the purple and gold ever since then. He is the face of one of the most storied franchises in basketball history, one that included Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabar. When you think “L.A. basketball”, you most likely think “Kobe Bryant”.
Unlike Bryant, James is not a franchise player.
He was drafted out of St. Vincent – St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003-04. James was the hometown hero, beloved by all Ohio natives, as well as fans around the world. However, that all changed. After being bounced from the Finals with a Cavs team that had no business even being in the playoffs without him, James realized that he couldn’t do it on his own. He signed with the Miami Heat in 2010-11, joining forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and won his first title in 2011-12.
I’m sure James’ first title was sweet, but wouldn’t it be just a little sweeter to win it for the team that set the stage for his superstardom (especially being that it was his home state)? Bryant could tell James about that.
6. Jump Shooting
James and Bryant both are exceptional post players for their respective sizes, and both have a solid ability to bring the ball up the floor. However, where James has the edge as a passer, Bryant is a far superior jump shooter, and all around scorer.
James is a 6’8”, 250 lbs beast. Bryant is 6’6”, 205 pounds, yet somehow puts up better scoring numbers than his Miami counterpart. How is that possible? The answer is simple: jump shooting.
Bryant is not the physical specimen that James is, but he is a better jump shooter. He must be, because it isn’t always possible for the smaller Bryant to navigate through the paint as it is for James. This gives the Mamba confidence as time winds down in the fourth quarter, as he knows he has an un-guardable weapon in his arsenal. James does not share that same pining for the last second shot.
LeBron James is one of the best players in the world, but he lacks the confidence that usually comes with such greatness. This insecurity arises usually in the closing moments of games, or most notably in the 2011-12 NBA Finals when the Heat lost to the underdog Dallas Mavericks.
On the other hand, Kobe Bryant is probably the cockiest athlete on the planet. Here are some quotes from the Black Mamba that exemplify such “confidence”:
"These young guys are playing checkers. I'm out there playing chess," and, "Just got one more [title] than Shaq. You can take that to the bank."
When asked if he can learn anything from the younger players on Team USA in 2012, Bryant said, “No, I don’t know if I know it all, but I know more than they do.” He went on to proclaim himself as the best post player on the team, ahead of Tyson Chandler, the only center on the roster. “No, no, no. Not other than Tyson Chandler. I’m the best post player on this team, period. Tyson Chandler is not in that conversation.” This Olympic team is the same team that Bryant said would beat the legendary Dream Team.
Kobe is more confident than James, and that elevates his game to another level. Knowing he is better than whoever is trying to cover him makes Bryant an even better player than he already is.
Aside from cockiness, which borders on arrogance, Bryant possesses another intangible over James: he has more heart.
Kobe will do whatever it takes to win, and usually that involves him jacking up a significant amount of shots and carrying the offensive load in L.A. for 82 games. James is a distributor, and a great one at that, and wants to win every game, whereas Bryant needs to be the victor of each contest.
That is where the Mamba/Jordan comparisons come in. However, although Bryant is the only one who should be “in the conversation,” according to MJ himself, Bryant has other ideas. “I don’t want to be the next Michael Jordan. I only want to be Kobe Bryant.”
As far as having heart, Bryant says he will do whatever his team needs him to do, whether that means “sitting on a bench waving a towel, handing a cup of water to a teammate, or hitting the game-winning shot.” Usually, it’s the last one.
3. Championship Rings
Now, we get into the hardware.
At age 34, Bryant has five NBA championships, including the Finals MVP award in 2009 and 2010, when the Lakers won back to back titles. He won three of those titles with Shaquille O’Neal as his teammate, but conversely to James’ need for a sidekick, Bryant chased the “Big Aristotle” out of Los Angeles.
James won his first championship last season, as the Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games. He is only 27, but to match Bryant’s total at age 34, James will have to win four titles over the next seven years. With rising teams such as the New York Knicks, Memphis Grizzlies, and the Los Angeles Clippers, I don’t know if he will be able to do that.
2. The Sidekick Issue
When James signed with the Heat, he joined forces with another top-5 player in the NBA, Dwyane Wade; and shortly before James signed, Miami inked a deal with perennial All-Star Chris Bosh, thus ushering in the name “The Big Three.”
Well, at the same time, Bryant is more a “Big One.” He chased Shaq out of town after winning three titles, as he and O’Neal were both alpha-dogs and butted heads far too often. Bryant told the world with his actions, “I can do this by myself because I’m the best,” while James’ said, “I need help.”
Actions speak louder than words.
1. The Clutch Gene
Picture yourself in the following situation, and you make the decision as to who the better player is.
You are coaching NBA team X. You are down two points with 10 seconds left in the game. The opponents just nailed two free throws to take the lead, and you take a timeout. As you draw up the play for your team in the huddle, your team looks defeated, except for your star player. You design a play to get them the ball in a one-on-one situation. The huddle breaks and your squad takes the floor.
The ball is inbounded, and promptly handed off to your star around midcourt. Time ticks down. 9,8,7… he dribbles side to side, sizing up his defender who is closely guarding him. 6,5,4… he drives and beats his man off the dribble, and pulls up for a three pointer. 3,2,1… and the buzzer sounds with the ball header towards the basket.
Now, you tell me who you want to be that star player in that scenario. And that, my friends, is the answer to the great debate: Who is better, LeBron James of Kobe Bryant?
Follow Thomas Duffy on Twitter @TD_Knicks for articles, news, and all things NBA.