IF "BETTER" means more complete, then Kobe.
If "Better" means more dominant, LeBron.
Let's define it as "more complete," because then we don't have to compliment the production of a souped-up dump truck.
Watching Kobe play at his peak was like watching Itzhak Perlman play Vivaldi with the London Philharmonic, or catching Miles Davis in Montreux.
LeBron? It's John Philip Sousa, on trombone, every single game.
Kobe very quickly realized what he was good at, perfected it and conditioned himself to become unstoppable.
That is the definition of genius; Einstein didn't write poetry.
LeBron's game lacks any hint of elegance because, bewilderingly, he has never fully developed his strengths. Why? Because he is fixated on proving he has no weakness.
Anyone who has witnessed him shooting a jump shot might wonder why he ever leaves the post.
LeBron and Kobe are so fundamentally different that it is impossible to compare them, exactly; much like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal. Neither LeBron nor Kobe won anything as solitarily as Wilt Chamberlain or Michael Jordan, though Bryant's last championship teams were not as stacked as the two Heat squads that won with LeBron.
Kobe is, simply, better; a better defender with a better offensive repertoire, and as good a finisher. LeBron is a better rebounder (through sheer mass), a beautiful passer and a physiological freak, at 6-8, 250 pounds.
The difficulty with naming LeBron the "Better" player lies in the wealth of ability LeBron leaves untapped. No one except Mike and Wilt possessed the combination of speed, size and developable skill that LeBron carries...except Mike and Wilt quickly and completely developed their skills. So did Kobe.
Not so LeBron. His stubbornness, insubordination and unwillingness to play any but a primary role has handicapped him, regardless of his team's composition. Kobe was stubborn and difficult, too, but LeBron's ego hinders him.
How much? So much that it might be argued that steady, versatile Tim Duncan, with five titles, might be the second-best player of the era; a Wynton Marsalis, if you will.
But again, you're comparing brilliant artists; and, there's no accounting for taste.
Some people prefer trombone to violin.
@inkstainedretch Blog: ph.ly/DNL
IT'S FUNNY to say "in their prime," because I believe LeBron is still in his and may be for a few more years.
Comparing the two is like comparing the boxer vs. the puncher, with Kobe being the one who slips and dips, flashes a little bit of power when needed but mostly does his damage at a distance. He is among the best at thinking out a game, knowing how to take charge and then doing it. LeBron will take that 250-pound frame, barrel to the basket and figure it out when he gets there. He blends that jaw-dropping power with the vision of a crafty point guard, able to get the ball to his teammates when he has a good shot, but theirs is better.
For all of their offensive gifts, they both could take over a game at the defensive end, Kobe with terrific anticipation skills and quick hands from a deceptively long reach. LeBron may be the quickest player ever to take the court at his size and weight. He uses his body to put offensive players where he wants them, not where they want to be, and also possesses terrific anticipatory skills.
Both can take over games with their scoring, Kobe from mostly outside, LeBron from in and out. But I think the main reason LeBron gets my vote is his passing ability, which isn't just good, it's elite. While each has had the privilege to play with some very good talent, LeBron did a much better job of getting those teammates more involved.
Their numbers are so comparable, Kobe with career averages of 25.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists, LeBron at 27.3, 7.1 and 6.9. Due to his power inside, LeBron owns the better field-goal percentage, but not by much — 49.6 to 45.0.
LeBron has three titles to go in order to catch Kobe in the championship department and, fair enough, many believe that is the deciding factor. I don't. These are two of the all-time greats, obviously, and LeBron will continue to grow his legacy, perhaps for as long as Kobe did. But in their primes, I give the nod to the Akron native, not the Philly one.
@BobCooney76 Blog: ph.ly/Sixerville
KOBE, WITH a big caveat. LeBron is right in the middle of his prime years. Ask the question in a few years and my answer is almost certainly different.
Today, it is Kobe for one reason, and not because of talent.
LeBron is the more talented player, the smarter player, the better all-around player. He takes better shots, thus his field-goal percentage is much higher. He can play any position on the floor. He sees the game like Magic Johnson and finishes like Gus Johnson (go to YouTube and watch the glass shatter).
Neither player is very accurate from three, but that never stopped Kobe. In fact, he has attempted 5,168 threes, a perfect testament to what made him great, a combination of confidence and arrogance. He was never afraid and always believed he was going to make the next shot.
The five championships to two are irrelevant to me. You think LeBron might have won a few playing with Shaq?
What bothered me through the years about LeBron, but bothers me no longer because it is in the past was his penchant for ducking from the big moment. Please see his 2010 series with Cleveland against Boston or the Finals again Dallas in his first season with the Heat or Game 6 in 2013 against San Antonio. He played passively in too many big moments. In fact, if it wasn't for Ray Allen's miracle shot in Game 6 in 2013, LeBron would have gone from discussion as G.O.A.T to goat. It all changed the next game when it was LeBron who made the big shots in the final seconds to get his second championship with the Heat. I have seen nothing of the passive LeBron since then.
Kobe was never passive. He was a stone killer. It was his greatest attribute. He wanted it more than anybody else, including a young LeBron. Kobe wanted it when he was at Lower Merion, which was why he was at the gym before anybody else was awake. And he did win those last two championships without Shaq. When LeBron wins in Cleveland, and he will, my answer will be different. Today, it is Kobe.
I HATE the LeBron James comparisons for the same reason I hate the Wilt Chamberlain comparisons: Interms of sheer physical prowess, these were the two truly transcendent players of their respective generations.
We're talking size, strength and athleticism. The year Wilt averaged 50 and 25, he was one of nine players in the league listed as taller than 6-9. If James had played then, he might have been guarding Wilt. Which is what makes James such a freak, and makes the answer to a question like this self-evident. Because James has spent most of his career running some kind of point-forward mix, which creates the kind of mismatch that you'd take over a shooting guard any day of the week.
So if we're defining the "Better" player as the guy who you'd rather build your team around, the answer has to be James.
That said, I'm not sure James has ever — or will ever — had a two-year stretch like Kobe did at 27 and 28 years old, when he combined to average 33.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists with a .456 field-goal percentage. At least, not from an abstract standpoint, because if we're going straight numbers, then, again, it's LeBron without much of a debate.
But the Kobe of the mid-2000s was a rip-your-heart-out-and-watch-it-beat-in-his-hands kind of player, and that's the kind of abstract stuff that we get to factor into these kinds of arguments. As physically overpowering as LeBron is, if I had "X" dollars to spend on one ticket to one game featuring one of them in their prime, I'd be paying to watch Kobe.
Bob Vetrone Jr...LeBron