Basketball fan or not, you’ve probably witnessed the following debate. Who is a greater player: Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? Although they’ve never played a single playoff game against each other, the comparison is inevitable. Both came to the NBA out of high school, both have been very dominant since their early years, and both made a huge impact on the league.
They are both first-ballot Hall of Famers, with a combined eight championship rings together, and counting. So, who would you pick? Kobe or LeBron? Here are 3 arguments why each one of these NBA giants is better than the other.
Three reasons why LeBron is better:
LeBron is a better clutch player
While Kobe fans argue that he is a better clutch player (the one who makes the most important shots, especially in the game’s last minutes), it`s far from reality. LeBron, who does not choke, is a better clutch player, and this argument is backed by stats. A look into LeBron & Kobe`s clutch-time stats proves LeBron is better than Kobe in the most important time of the game.
The greatest players are the ones that make the others around them better
In terms of being a team player, there is no comparison between them. LeBron is a smart player and a fantastic passer, with a vision of a crafty point guard. He can create a shooting opportunity for himself in every position, but he will pass if his teammate has a better shot.
In contrast, Kobe was a selfish player, who hurt his team harmony, as evident in the Phil Jackson biography. Kobe was ambitious, but also arrogant in a way that led him to make bad choices more than once.
LeBron has less championships, but his name is written all over them
Kobe had a better supportive team around him, both on the court and in the coach position. Three out of Kobe`s five rings were won together with Shaquille O’Neil, possibly the best center to ever play the game. Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, although none of them is a hall-of-famer, make a fantastic supportive team. Moreover, Kobe won his five rings with Phil Jackson, who is probably the sharpest basketball mind to ever exist.
LeBrun won his first 2 rings as part of the Heat`s trio. Aside from Dwain Wade, his supportive team lacks the quality Kobe`s support had. He won his 3rd ring against team that scored the best regular season record ever. LeBron won the finals’ MVP award and was the most dominant player in every championship he won. So, he might have fewer championship rings, but he played a bigger part in achieving them.
Three reasons why Kobe is better:
Kobe is a more complete player
LeBron might be more dominant player, but Kobe is a more complete (as in: whole) and versatile player, thus making him a better player. While LeBron is an all-around player, with explosive power that makes him almost impossible to guard, he lacks elegance and style.
In comparison, Kobe was a virtuoso on offense, a better finisher and a better defender. He also had amazing anticipation and instincts that were perfected with Phil Jackson`s triangle offense.
The Phoenix Suns’ forward, Grant Hill, who guarded both players, told Sports Illustrated: “He (LeBron) has the two pitches… both of them are great. But Kobe is like the guy with all the pitches. He brings his fastball, his change, gives you something on the corner… With Kobe, you’re never comfortable.”
Kobe had something that LeBron doesn’t
A huge part of Michael Jordan`s legacy was earned on the day he won game five of the 1997 finals in Utah, when he dropped 38 points (including a clutch 3-pointer) with flu-like symptoms, including an extremely high fever. This is what makes a legend.
Similarly, Kobe, who outplays LeBron, took over game four in the 2000 finals with an injured ankle. He also won finals with a damaged index finger. His work ethic and ambition was inspiring. He was a rip-your-heart-out-and-watch-it-beat-in-his-hands kind of player, regardless of his physical condition.
LeBron can demolish every opponent, but his spirit is different, and is built first and for all around his amazing capabilities. If he will come up with the magical spirit of the 2016 finals again, then we have something to talk about. Until then it has to be Kobe, because that kind of abstract stuff is what wins that kinds of arguments.
Kobe was a better defensive player then LeBron
It`s defense that wins titles. Sure, you have to be a good offensive team, obviously, but in the nerve-racking finals, having a better defensive team has, historically, made winning the title more likely.
Both Kobe and LeBron are legends with enormous offensive abilities. While LeBron was named six times in the NBA All-Defensive team, Kobe was named 12 times in the NBA All-Defensive team.
Bottom line: There is no right or wrong answer here that is clear. LeBron is much more of a team player than Kobe, is much more dominant and holds better stats. Meanwhile, Kobe was a more versatile and complete player, a virtuoso with amazing skills and defense abilities.