Now that LeBron James has decided to join the Los Angeles Lakers, the door for the never-ending debate has been left wide open once again, regarding if he’s a better player than Kobe Bryant.
The King and the Black Mamba have always been on different sides of this discussion for obvious reasons, with fans constantly going at it to try and determine which player will be ranked high in basketball history.
So, now that James is in Kobe’s town, why don’t we go ahead and talk about the series that everybody would love to watch? Who had the best support cast? Who’d win on a 7 game series?
Note: for this article, all of this players will be pictured on their primes.
Coach: Erik Spoelstra
PG: Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving is yet to reach his prime and that’s one of the scariest things about him. He’s got the best handles in the league, the clutch gene and a never-ending layup package, being one of the deadliest scorers from all three levels and also an underrated playmaker, even though he thrives off the ball and is not always willing to find his teammates.
SG: Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade is one of the best shooting guards in the history of the game. Moreover, he’s the Robin to James’ Batman, the perfect sidekick that didn’t get enough recognition because of LeBron’s presence. They’ve developed a great chemistry and were one of the most dominant 1-2 punches this league has ever seen.
SF: LeBron James
Naturally, LeBron James will be the team’s starting small forward and captain. James is arguably the most complete player in the history of basketball, he’s got eyes on the back of his head, is an outstanding passer and rebounder, and even a lockdown defender when he’s focused in the playoffs.
PF: Chris Bosh
People tend to forget how much of a talented player Chris Bosh was and how good he used to be during his Toronto Raptors days because he embraced a lesser role to play with James and Wade. Still, Bosh was an underrated defender, a great rebounder and consistent scorer from deep, being the perfect example of a stretch four.
C: Shaquille O’Neal
Even though LeBron James didn’t enjoy Shaquille O’Neal’s company for much time, he’s still by far the best big man he’s ever played with. Strong, physical, dominant in both ends of the hardwood, he’s got to be considered one of the best centers this game has ever seen, regardless of his detractors.
Bench: Derrick Rose, Ray Allen, Antawn Jamison, Kevin Love, Ben Wallace
This second unit features a lot of balance with Derrick Rose leading the way as their backup ball handler and Ray Allen playing off ball to make the most of the three-point shooting expertise he showed throughout his career.
Jamison was an athletic freak and a deadly scorer from all three levels, while Kevin Love and Ben Wallace round up a very dynamic backcourt that features shooting, lockdown defense and top-tier rebounders.
Team Kobe Bryant
Coach: Phil Jackson
PG: Gary Payton
Even though Gary Payton wasn’t on his prime when he played with Kobe, he’s still one of the best point guards in the history of the game due to his smooth hands in the defensive end, his clutch shots and top-tier playmaking ability, although he was a bit of a ball-dominant player to play with the Mamba.
SG: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is the closest to Michael Jordan will ever see. Copying most of his moves and becoming one of the most prolific scorers ever, Bryant paved the way to become the greatest player in Los Angeles Lakers history, and he’d love the chance to just stick it to James and rub it on his face.
SF: Rick Fox
Rick Fox was an extremely underrated part of the Lakers three-peat run before being traded away to the Boston Celtics. He was a lockdown defender in the wing that could get hot in the blink of an eye, a committed rebounder and a guy that was more than willing to set his teammates up.
PF: Karl Malone
Karl Malone is arguably the greatest player never to win an NBA Championship, and even though his relationship with Bryant was complicated, to say the least, he’d still have to be the team’s starting power forward. Malone was a dominant and physical scorer nobody could stop in the paint, and one of the best finishers ever.
C: Shaquille O’Neal
Naturally, Shaquille O’Neal would also have to play alongside Kobe Bryant, as they were the most unstoppable duo in the league when they were on their primes. Shaq was the most dominant player this game has ever seen and became even bigger when the team made it to the Finals.
Bench: Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Nick Van Exel leads the second unit with his top-notch hustle and great playmaking, while Eddie Jones rounds up the backcourt with his consistent scoring touch from beyond the three-point line.
When it comes to the frontcourt, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum would handle the scoring and rebounding duties as a very skilled offensive combo, while Ron Artest (Metta World Peace) plays lockdown defense in the wings.
LeBron James would take matters into his own hands on game 1, recording over 35 points en route to a 35-10-12 triple-double. With Artest getting into foul trouble early on and an inspired Shaquille O’Neal, team James would overcome Bryant’s 45 points and record a 111-105 triumph to steal homecourt advantage.
Game 2 would be Kyrie’s time to shine, with him jealous of LeBron getting all of the attention. Big shot after big shot, Uncle Drew would log 29 points joined by Wade’s 24 and LeBron’s 17. On the losing end, Shaq would log a 33-15 double-double, while Bryant would miss the last minute shot to win it all, falling one more time against the King, this time 110-109.
The Mamba’s pissed and everybody knows it. Kobe takes things quite personal and coach Jackson decides to shift Artest into the starting lineup. With James’ suffocatingly covered by Ron, the home team would have to rely on Bosh and Wade, but even with them combining for 52 points, Kobe’s 55 point performance would be enough to secure a 120-105 triumph.
Team Kobe knows there’s no room for error and that they need to get back in this series as soon as they can, so Kobe, Payton, Shaq and Malone decide to bury the hatchet and finally become the dominant Fab Four everybody expected them to be; combining for 110 of the 125 points the team scored as a whole on a 125-98 victory. For the losers, James would record a 29-10-9 line and Wade would follow up with a 25-5-5 game, while Kyrie’s a complete no-show.
Game 5 wouldn’t be as lopsided as the others, with as much as 25 lead changes and no team ever leading by more than 7 points. Kobe and Shaq would combine for dozens of alley-oops, while James and Shaq would do pretty much the same for their squad. With team James entering the 4th quarter with a 3 point lead, an unconscious performance by the Black Mamba would seal the deal en route to a 112-109 comeback win.
With everything on the line and following a couple of duds, Kyrie Irving would make another appearance and carry his team throughout 4 quarters, even knocking down the last second game-tying shot to take it to overtime. There, Irving would pick up things where he left them and light up team Bryant for 9 straight points, hitting the dagger with a step back three from the left corner. James wins 99-95, series tied.
It’s win or go home time now and both captains know it. This one goes down to the wire, with LeBron scoring 45 points while Wade comes along with 33. On the other side, Kobe would record a 50 point, 11 rebound double-double; while Pau Gasol’s great performance off the bench gets their team back into the game after being down 11 points. 5 seconds left on the clock, Team Bryant inbounds, they’re down by 1. Kobe posts up James turns around with the fadeaway, we hear the buzzer… BALL GAME! Kobe wins it 121-120 and takes the series home.