In recent memory, there was one finals matchup every NBA fan wanted, it seemed almost destined but, it never happened. That series was LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. A matchup of the best shooting guard and the best small forward in the league would have been amazing. There was one time that it could have happened, that was in 2009. Kobe said it himself, that was the best time for them to meet up. The Lakers held up their end of the bargain by knocking off Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets. However, the Cavs lost in the ECF to the Magic.
The only other time that would have been these two meeting was in 2011. LeBron made it but, the Lakers lost to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks. Despite them never meeting in the finals, they had a lot of regular seasons and All-Star battles. This does beg the question, who is better? This is incredibly tough as they are both NBA greats and the best two players coming out of high school but, let us try and figure it out.
This one in my mind is pretty clear. It’s Kobe. The way I look at this is that in their peak seasons Kobe averaged 35.4 points per game, and LeBron averaged 31.4 points per game. LeBron’s career high was 61 and Kobe’s was 81. Also, Kobe had more than ten 50+ games and six 60+ games. Kobe had a stretch in 2006 where he averaged 50+ points over four games.
LeBron just never had a stretch like that (that is not on him, he is a pass first small forward) but he can score. Kobe is a lot more skilled, LeBron often dominates a game through sheer power but when Kobe played, he had a lot of tools, he was athletic, could play in the post and was a better three-point shooter. End of the day, I would want Kobe taking the shot of the game for me over LeBron.
It’s LeBron. His size and athleticism makes it possible for James to guard all five positions on the court. Kobe was limited to guarding the point through small forward. They are both great defenders, but LeBron’s versatility on that end of the court is what gives him that slight tick over Kobe.
Also, the play that Lebron James will go down in NBA history for was not an offensive play rather, a defensive one, covering the court in a few seconds to get a chase down block off the backboard against Iguodala, to help Cleveland cap the 2016 NBA title.
LeBron and Kobe both had their fair share of great teammates. Kobe had prime Shaq, a slew of former all-stars past their prime like Gary Payton and Karl Malone. His cast in his later titles was also great in Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum (when he was healthy) Lamar Odom. One thing that can be said is that Kobe was that from 2005 to 2016 he was the best player on the Lakers, and while he had Shaq his first 9 seasons around the 2000 Kobe did come into his own averaging 25 points a game. He was more of a 1B rather than a 2. It was Superman and Batman rather than Batman and Robin.
LeBron, on the other hand, didn’t really have good teammates until Miami. His best player was Big Z. He had players that were past their primes, still too young or just raw, and he was still leading them to the winning season. Later on, he had Wade and Bosh. Now he has Love and Irving.
I would say that when LeBron started winning titles, he had other stars, while when Kobe won his two titles in 09-10, there was no other dominant star.
Awards and Career
MVPs, LeBron 4, Kobe 1 (I will say that Kobe should have had 2, in 06 and 09, He was clearly the most valuable player for the Lakers in 2006, without him, they would have had the first overall pick). They both have a lot of All-Star, All-Defensive team and All-NBA nods. Kobe had a 20-year career, LeBron is on 14, and since Lebron is still in the league, I’m not going to touch on this too much.
Both of their careers are incredible and in a lot of people’s minds are two of the best.
Both players are influential in their own right. Kobe is the man who exemplifies the value of hard work. Kobe had to work hard to get his skill, he was never the most naturally talented however, through hard work and determination he was able to become the closest thing to Michael Jordan.
LeBron had all the natural talent. It is his story that draws people, a man who grew up in poverty and was able to become the best player in the world.
Kobe and LeBron are Gods in the realm of basketball, players that carried the 2000s era of the NBA. So, who is better? This is tough but, for now, I’ll say Kobe. Five rings, third on the all-time scoring list, every minute of his career with LA, plus countless other awards. However, LeBron can pass him when it is all said and done.