Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kobe Or LeBron...The Debate Continues Tonight

For the last two or three years, the entire sports world has been asking the question, “Who is better, Kobe or LeBron?” Every stat, single-game performance, head-to-head matchup, and playoff experience has been analyzed from every angle. Despite this, the answer is more polarizing than the opinion on the gender of Lady Gaga.

Since high school, LeBron has been as publicized as any person on the planet. He has been compared to greats like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Oscar Robertson…and those comparisons started when he was 17! Seven years later, he has done nothing but prove us right. He is not just one of the greatest basketball players; he is one of the top 5 freakishly amazing athletes in the world’s history.

LeBron is nothing less than a gift from God. While I assume that most people are created on an assembly line in Heaven, there are some people that you just know were hand sculpted by God himself. This small list of people includes the likes of LeBron, Adrian Peterson, Jessica Alba, and Bar Refaeli. To see him that jacked even though he never lifted weights until last year makes me sick. He isn’t a human being…he isn’t. There is no way he has the same type of DNA as me…no.

Even if we look past his natural abilities, his stats are just as impressive. He is a great rebounder, and one of the best team-players in the NBA. He always looks to set up his teammates, and makes the game more enjoyable for everyone who plays with him.

What makes LeBron special and not just a great player is his ability to drive the lane. In my opinion, the difference between a great player and a legendary one is that a legendary one does everything great, but has one thing that he does as good as any other person who has ever played. Shaq had his spin move that was quicker than anyone his size, Kobe has his constant ability to nail big shots (more on this later), and LeBron has his ability to get to the basket. The man is straight up impossible to stop if he goes to the basket. At 6’8, he is as powerful as anyone in the game, and is just as quick. After just one dribble, he has as much force as a train and if you are foolish enough to draw a charge, it is going to HURT. We will see someone with the shooting ability and the late game heroics of Kobe Bryant, but we will never see someone who can drive like LeBron can.

Let’s start my segment on Kobe with a question. Do you know why he nicknamed himself “the black mamba?” It’s because the Black Mamba is a very deadly snake that strikes with 99 percent accuracy. When a game is in crunch time that is what Kobe strives for.

Kobe’s stat sheet over the past decade is remarkable and is worthy of worshiping on its own. Since 2002, Kobe hasn’t finished outside the top six in points per game, or the top nine in minutes. He contributes to over 30 percent of the Lakers offense, and one of the most feared people on a basketball court. The fact that he has only won one MVP trophy in his career is a joke. My proof? He was named “player of the decade” by every single analyst asked.

What gives Kobe a legit argument to claim the “best player” title isn’t his stats though, because LeBron’s are more impressive. It is what he does in crunch time that makes him so feared. I’ll give you a scenario to show my point. Your team is up by a point with 15 seconds left and Kobe has the ball…what are the chances you win that game? 25 percent? 30? That is why people say he is the best. The fact that a team, who is winning with just seconds left, is actually more likely to lose than win illustrates why he is so deadly. When he shoots the ball at the buzzer, you just sit back and watch as the Black Mamba strikes again.

This argument was proven unequivocally in the 2008 Olympics during the title game. Spain had just closed a once double-digit lead to a one possession game with two minutes to play. This was everyone’s fear because our team was so star-studded, that people didn’t know whether guys would fight over the last shot. Nope. Without any discussion, players just gave the reigns over to Kobe and let him take over. Despite the fact that Dwayne Wade was the best player over the entire competition, Kobe was instantly “the man.” Turns out, the team made the right choice. Kobe got a four-point play right out of a time out and scored on the next possession. If there was any doubt about the games outcome, Kobe made sure it didn’t last. The fact that it was Kobe they trusted, and not LeBron, shouldn’t be understated.

In addition to the crunch time argument, the playoffs argument sides with Kobe as well. If writer Bill Simmons has taught me anything, it is that performances in big games mean more. That’s why I feel that Bill Russell is the greatest Player ever and not MJ. Did you know that Bill Russell never lost a game seven…ever? He was something crazy like 13-0. Well, if the post season is a factor, then Kobe’s four rings help win the case. Say what you want about him riding on Shaq’s coat tails for the first three, but last year’s was all Kobe. And you know what, the one he wins this year will be all him as well.

So, I just spent almost 1000 words breaking down the two guys who are the best of the best and even I have a hard time choosing. However, I tend to side with Jerry West on an opinion and this is it…LeBron is the best for the first 46 minutes of the game, but Kobe is way better in the last two. Whether you think what LeBron does in 46 minutes makes him better that Kobe’s two, or vice versa, is completely subjective.

Personally, I take Kobe. The average NBA game is usually a five or seven point game going into the final minutes regardless of whose playing, and if I have a player who can take over at that time, it is invaluable.

Tonight will be yet another opportunity to compare these two titans, but I suggest you take this game with a big grain of salt. Kobe is a guy who never uses an injury as an excuse, but he is in such obvious pain that he doesn’t need to. He has a broken finger on his shooting hand, that is drastically affecting his shot, and back spasms, which Kobe has said are the most painful thing he has ever experienced. I am not saying tonight’s game won’t be fun, I am just saying that we need to wait until one of them is the NBA champion to crown them, because I’m pretty sure one of them will be.

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