About six years ago the basketball argument of this decade was started: Who's better, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? Since then, we haven't looked back at the past unless it was to take a glimpse of who these two were compared to: the greatest of all time, Michael Jordan. This argument cannot be started until we look at the full grasp of Jordan.
I'm not going to the history books to research information on Jordan. My childhood have been catered to knowing everything about him. So for, every person out there questioning my sports knowledge just gave up. I grew up on sports. Come along for the ride.
Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn, but moved to North Carolina in his youth. His first sports love would be America's past time (baseball), but he turned to basketball. There were times when people said he was too small to play so he didn't make the varsity team. He went to work. He came back to make the varsity squad and his career would lead him to play in the famed Carolina blue uniform. From there, he became a Bull.
I could close my eyes and hear the Bulls' theme in the United Center. Turn the lights out. Increase the fog. Where's my flashing lights? Playing guard, #23, from the University of North Carolina, Michaaaaeeel Jorrrrrdan!
It was greatness. In time, he would win numerous MVP titles, scoring titles, Championship rings and be an Olympian. The numbers mattered but it didn't matter.
I could rally his stats off like I was a talking encyclopedia, but an encyclopedia is pointless. Simple numerical facts are irrelevant. They don't, they cannot, tell how he played.
Jordan played with a desire to not only be the best, but to make everyone around him better. He never gave up. He was the epitome of a classy teammate and player. He was the Greg Maddux of basketball, graceful. Almost every game was a highlight reel, but in this highlight reel you could see a Pippen, a Kukoc, a Kerr. Michael Jordan was "The Air" and we are still not sure how many people can reach that height of greatness.
As I digressed into pure happiness as I walked down memory lane, I must come back to the argument because neither will touch The Air: the Black Mamba or King James...
Individual stats, team stats, MVP awards, and All-star appearances are all numbers that indicate their greatness. In fact, presently, King James is leading. He's better than Kobe Bryant.
Somehow, I'm still not bowing down to the NBA King. I simply don't buy into him yet, but numerically I'm wrong. Surprisingly for a person who likes to be right, I'm okay with stepping away from the numbers and being wrong.
I know that through any amount of time, through any games that I have played there is a stat that I realize the most. Who's missing from a team when I lose? What was different from the time I lost and the time I won?
Fact: Kobe's cast is said to be better. Lakers' record: 65-17.
Fact: LeBron's cast helped lead the Cavaliers to the best record in the NBA, 66-16. Fact: LeBron has a better shooting percentage. Fact: LeBron is the MVP. Fact: LeBron has passed Kobe. Fiction: LeBron is better than Kobe.
If I had Kobe and LeBron on the same team and I had to take one of them away to win the game, I wouldn't take Kobe out. He's the one that will make the game winning shot. He is the intangible that can't be thrown away. LeBron is no trash, far from it. But as in the Olympics, Kobe proved that there is something more that he brings to a team and the game.
LeBron tried to do this without Kobe in 2004. The results were horrible and led to the 2008 cast being called the Redeem Team. Our Olympic basketball is composed of nothing but superstars. So why couldn't LeBron and Company win?
They played too long of a season. They didn't have much preparation as a team. The world was catching up. Blah, blah, blah... these are excuses that shouldn't be made. America not winning a gold medal in basketball is like a long distance runner from any African country not winning a long distance race.
I believe that Kobe is the person from the game that could be filtered in to be the reason why they won. Kobe offers something that is a must. He offers a team the right to be the last one standing. That's the only stat that means something. When you go to battle which team is left standing and who is the captain of that team.
I'm tired of hearing the supporting cast argument because they were good enough in the regular season.
It's as simple as this: if I had to be the captain on a pick up game of 5 on 5 my first selection would be the Black Mamba. I guarantee, not the Mo Williams' type of guarantee but the Babe pointing to center field guarantee, that my team with Kobe Bryant will win.
In the end, the Black Mamba and King James are two NBA greats that have been pitted against each other for a lifetime. They can't outlive the stats or the hype that they have both helped to create. Yet, in the end, we still may not know who is better.
Truthfully, the greatness of a player is beyond his individual stats. His greatness lies in how a fan will perceive him. Perception is everything; it is the key to a player's legacy. So when all is said and done, I believe Kobe will be the greater player.
It's not because I hate King James. I respect his game. It's as simple as this: Kobe is my cup of tea. He's the player that I prefer to lead my team to the next level. I'll keep sipping on that tea until it is no longer viable. I'll respect anyone's decision to sip on a different brand of tea.