Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are two of the greatest players of all time. In the post-Michael Jordan era, Kobe and LeBron were the two faces of the NBA, that had the most success since Jordan retired for the second time in 1998. Kobe represented the similar win-at-all-costs mentality that Michael Jordan was renowned for.
But LeBron James is more of a team player who looks to get all his teammates involved in the game. Between 2003 to today, the debate has raged on as to who was the better player between the two.
Fans of the older generation have said that Kobe Bryant is better than LeBron James because of what he was able to do during his career, winning five championships. While others believe that LeBron James is better than Kobe Bryant, and belongs in the Greatest Of All Time conversation with Michael Jordan.
Much like the MJ-LeBron debate, the Kobe-LeBron debate may never end, regardless of how much championship success LeBron finds before he ends his career.
But some NBA players, especially those who played against both Kobe and LeBron, think that there isn’t a debate to be had. In the video below, several NBA stars from the past and the present talk about Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
All the people in the video, either directly or indirectly, say Kobe Bryant is better than LeBron James. The stars in the video include Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Bosh, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dirk Nowitzki among others.
Metta World Peace: “LeBron passes the ball… He’s not a great player off the ball but passes the ball… LeBron is okay off the ball, getting better off the ball. He would pass it and you would have to help because you’re trying to win you got to help your other teammate… That’s before he was able to take over games, he’s really really amazing… Kobe is more like Michael was. Definitely, the hardest guy because he came in the league very confident, came in the league polished. He didn’t play a lot, but he was pretty polished. Strong, could shoot, defend for long periods of time. Not just one year, he did it year after year after year. And so as he got older, Kobe definitely the toughest to defend.”
Andre Iguodala: “LeBron is able to do that and get 30 points… So it’s kind of like you’re in an island with him. Overall, Kobe Bryant’s the hardest I had to guard”
Larry Bird: “Probably Kobe. Because I think that… of course he wouldn’t have been shooting as much as he does now. His desire to win, it’s the dedication in the offseason to get better. He’s just a tough cat. But if you want to have fun like I did with Bill Walton, you play with LeBron… If you want to win and win and win, it’s Kobe.”
Scottie Pippen: “When you talk about trying to compare Michael’s instinct, his ability to take over games, his ability to want to have that last shot… LeBron doesn’t have that gene. That’s not in him, Kobe has that gene.”
Shaquille O'Neal: “Did you say LeBron James is the greatest player of all time? What about Michael and Kobe? So you’re just going to pass Kobe up like that?”
Gilbert Arenas: “Who’s better? Probably Kobe. All around he’s just a better player in a sense of skill work, knowledge. But it’s hard to knock what LeBron does. LeBron is amazing.”
Chris Bosh: “Greatness. He’s the greatest player of my generation. He was that guy after Mike that really just won. He was about winning championships and he really did it at a young age. They three-peated when he was 21-22 years old. And it was just amazing to see him climb up so high so fast. They did have their struggles but he was still a great player, one of the greatest I’ve ever seen.”
Kenyon Martin: “I’m taking Kobe. I played against both guys. More Kobe, being in the West, seeing it first hand. Taking nothing away from LeBron but I’m taking Kobe because his mentality. He’s the closest thing in my opinion to Michael Jordan.”
Michael Jordan: “Kobe or LeBron? Kobe.”
Dirk Nowitzki: “Like I said this entire time he’s our Michael Jordan for my generation. He’s one of the best ever lace them up. And it’s been a pleasure and an honor to compete against him basically almost my entire career. I wish him nothing but the best for life.”
Matt Barnes: “Jordan is one and Kobe’s 1B. That’s no knock on LeBron, I think LeBron is right there, but just the killer instinct Kobe had, the way he attacked the game.”
Steve Kerr: “Kobe is the closest thing to Michael... I don’t think LeBron is Michael at all. I think he’s a very different player, different mentality, mindset. Kobe has the same mindset and mentality that MJ had, the ‘assassin’, the ‘I’m going to rip your throat out with my scoring, low post dominant fadeaway jumper’. I thought Kobe’s footwork was one of the best parts of his game, probably the most underrated because everybody focused on his shooting and his athleticism but his footwork got him over. That’s where he was so similar to Michael.”
Stephen Jackson: “I would take Kobe… Reason I like Kobe? Relentless. Mamba, that killer attitude. He’s going to go out and play hard every night, he’s not going to care who he’s playing against. He don’t want to work out with you if you on another team and be your friend in the summertime.”
James Harden: “I’ll say Kobe”
Allen Iverson: “LeBron is great... I don’t understand how they don’t have that debate with him (MJ) and Kobe? I don’t get it. You forgot? I think they really forgot the Mamba!”
Kevin Durant: “Mike 1, Kobe 2, Shaq 3, Hakeem 4, and Magic 5”.
Both LeBron and Kobe have had great success during their careers in the NBA. Currently, Kobe has the advantage over LeBron when it comes to championships. But LeBron has more MVPs and Finals MVPs in his resume.
It’s hard to compare the two players given that their style of play was very different from each other. Jordan, who is in the video above, has picked Kobe Bryant over LeBron James in the past. But one thing is absolutely clear – the two belong in the all-time greats conversation.