Ever since Michael Jordan retired, there’s been a never-ending debate on who’s the greatest player in the world. All sides have their valid points, and truth to be told, we feel like this is more of a matter of opinions instead of facts.
A couple of players that have constantly been featured in this debate are obviously Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, the first being the closest thing we’ve seen to His Royal Airness, and the latter being the most dominant player of the decade.
And now that LeBron has decided to carry Kobe’s torch and join the Los Angeles Lakers to lead them back to Championship contention, the debate has been at it’s best over the last month and a half or so.
Personally, I think they’re both top 5 players in the history of the game, and even though I don’t think they’re exactly comparable, I’m going to go out on a limb and try and be as objective as I can, stating facts over opinions here. So, join me as I break down both players to try and figure out who’s the best.
Inside Scoring - LeBron James
Well, LeBron has always thrived off his strength and is the most dominant driver I’ve seen in years. Yes, the league is way softer and defenders aren’t allowed to check players down low as they used to do it anymore, but even so, there’s no guy in the world that can stop this bulldozer at full speed. He’s great at finishing with both hands and is one of the most explosive dunkers ever, and a master in the post.
Outside Scoring - Kobe Bryant
Even though neither of them is an elite three-point shooter, we have to slightly go with Kobe here, mostly because he’s a way better jump shooter than LeBron, and way more effective in catch and shoot situations. LeBron has improved as a pull-up three point shooter, but when locked in, nobody could ever beat the Mamba.
Playmaking - LeBron James
This one’s not even close. As a matter of fact, if you compare LeBron’s playmaking to pretty much every single other player in the world, LeBron is likely to win by a long shot. James is one of the best playmakers in the world, as it looks like he has eyes in the back of his head and always seem to know where his teammates are supposed to be. Standing at 6’8’’, LeBron is a forward that has Magic Johnson’s vision.
Athleticism - LeBron James
Once again, LeBron wins, but this one was pretty close. Kobe is a hell of an athlete, and his ability to contort his body to finish in the lane was iconic. Even so, with LeBron being 6’8’’ and weighing over 250 pounds, the fact that he’s so agile and quick is truly impressive. Moreover, he’s got higher hops than Kobe and he’s been arguably the most durable player ever.
Defense - Kobe Bryant
Kobe’s haters may argue he wasn’t much of a defender, but that’s flat out lies. When locked in, Kobe was never going to allow a star to score over himself, especially come playoff time. Yes, LeBron is a much more complete defender, but he only kicks it up in the playoffs, while Bryant did it on a nightly basis. If you disagree, take a look at Kobe’s 12 All-Defensive teams compared to LeBron’s 6.
Rim Protection - LeBron James
On the other hand, we have to recognize LeBron James is a much better rim protector than Kobe Bryant, and not just because of his height advantage, but because of his defensive awareness and athleticism. Also, LeBron’s chase down blocks have become a signature part of his game and if you don’t take our word for it, just ask Andre Iguodala. Also, James averages 0.8 blocks a game compared to Kobe’s 0.5.
Rebounding - LeBron James
Besides being bigger and stronger and spending a lot of time playing the four, LeBron has always been a way more committed rebounder than Kobe, constantly boxing out bigger guys in order to get his hands on a board. Also, he’s a slightly better offensive rebounder than Kobe. Over the course of his career, James has averaged 7.4 boards a game and never averaged under 5.5 rebounds (rookie season), which is better than Kobe’s 5.2 (career).
Ball Handling - LeBron James
When it comes to handles, both are pretty close, to be honest. Kobe was a crafty dribbler that could break dribbles in the blink of an eye, going over the back, between the legs and then turning around to hit a fadeaway. Even so, and once again, we have to give this one to LeBron because of the fact that him being a forward, it makes it way more impressive. James can and has run the point with ease, and has guard-like handles, so he wins.
Clutch - Kobe Bryant
Actually, LeBron James is one of the clutchest players ever, especially lately, but the Mamba Mentality is something we can never forget. Also, Kobe was incredibly accurate in the clutch, and he actually led his team to way more Championships and playoff wins. James is great in elimination games, but Kobe was always a cold-blooded reptile when the game was on the line.
Leadership - LeBron James
Even though Kobe Bryant led his team to 5 Championships, LeBron has always managed to find a way to take his teams to the Finals. Yes, it doesn’t mean he will win, but, for most of his career, he’s made it to the Finals with a weaker team. Kobe never got along with his teammates, and couldn’t lead the post-Shaq to success Lakers until Pau Gasol arrived.
LeBron James has played in 8 consecutive NBA Finals and counting.
Basketball IQ - Kobe Bryant
LeBron James is one of the smartest players in the world, he rarely makes mistakes, he knows where his teammates are supposed to be, and he doesn’t force many things. On the other hand, Kobe was a basketball mastermind. He could break down an entire defense before the ball was inbounded, and was a better off-ball player than LeBron, so there’s that. (Still pretty close, tough).
Impact - Kobe Bryant
No question about this. Only one player has a bigger impact than Kobe Bryant, and that is Michael Jordan. Kobe inspired generations, many young players and fans around the world. He shows us that hard work is what makes champions and if you want to become better you have to work more, you have to work harder and you have to invest your time, energy and passion to become better than you are right now.
LeBron James is 'freak athlete' and his body and strength give him an advantage on the court, but he also put in the work and he's become one of the best players because he worked really hard and consistent through his career.
Better Scorer - Kobe Bryant
Even though LeBron James is a much more efficient scorer, that doesn’t mean he’s better than Kobe by all means. Bryant had a never-ending bag of tricks and could light it up from all three levels. He had a lot of juice in his layups, could create off the dribble, take it all the way to the rim or connect those difficult turnaround fadeaway shots. He was the best scorer in the league throughout his entire career, and he won 2 Scoring Titles compared to James’ 1.
Better Career - Kobe Bryant
Obviously, Kobe has had a better career overall, even despite the fact that LeBron has won 4 MVPs and 3 Finals MVPs compared to Kobe’s 1 and 2. The fact that Bryant won 5 Championships in 7 trips to the Finals will always give him an upper hand over LeBron. Also, he made it to 18 All-Star games, 4 All-Star MVPs, 12 All-Defensive teams and 15 All-NBA teams.
Team Player - LeBron James
This one goes to LeBron without any kind of doubt. LeBron has been known for being kind of passive aggressive at times and forcing the team’s management to trade some players or make some moves, but even so, he’s also been known for being quite a supportive, easy-going teammate that would do everything in his hands to make everybody feel welcome.
Kobe, on the other hand, publicly bashed teammates, didn’t allow rookies to talk to him and had a strong beef with Shaq, Malone, and D12.
1 on 1 Game - Kobe
When it came to 1-on-1 scoring, there was no stopping Kobe. If you scored over him, you know you were going to pay the price and get torched at the other end. Kobe is a more versatile scorer and had an incredibly accurate shot and ankle-breaking change of pace and dribbling skills, although LeBron is also great himself in this regard.
Footwork - Kobe
Kobe had the ballerina-like footwork and was money when shuffling his feet. No defender in the world could trap him, not even in when double-teamed on the baseline. With his quick steps, he could always create separation between him and his defender to try and shoot over his head. LeBron fans will hate me for this, but he travels all the time and never gets called for it (same as charges).
Loyalty - Kobe
Even despite some stories that point towards Kobe demanding to be traded to the Chicago Bulls earlier on his career, he wound up staying put for good with the Los Angeles Lakers, even through tough times. Kobe gave his heart, body, and soul to a franchise and never looked back, knocking everybody off their feet in the Staples Center for 20 seasons.
LeBron, on the other hand, always did what was best for him and left the Cavaliers twice. He did come back and gave them a Championship, but just a handful of players have been as loyal as Kobe.
Kobe had a greater career, almost perfect score in the Finals (5/7), he will be remembered as one of the biggest clutch players in NBA History and probably the best player who played like MJ.
He gave us a great passion to the game, and even though stats are not in favor of Kobe Bryant, he didn't care too much about stats, but about winning and championships.
LeBron is an all-around player, he led teams to 9 NBA Finals, he is a great leader and lockdown top 5 player in NBA History. His biggest minus is his NBA Finals record and that he left the Cavs to create the Big 3 because of championships. But, he did come back to Cleveland and beat the Warriors after being down 3-1 in one of the most legendary NBA Finals of all-time.
They are very close to each other, and it will always be a debate who is better: Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.