Is LeBron Better Than Kobe or Jordan
Since last night’s Miami Heat Championship, this is one of the most common questions being asked by NBA fans. The debate once again rises on who’s the greatest NBA player of all time. These were the same talks that Kobe Bryant had when he won his first ring at 22 years old. By 24, Kobe already had three of them, while Jordan won his first at 29, and LeBron at 28.
Fans and critics of the league love to jump to conclusions regarding the greatest of all time but we all have different thoughts on what elements of the player’s game are the most important criteria. Is it the number of rings, the coach they won under, most points scored in a single game, poise, confidence, leadership, work ethic, student of the game, fight, courage, marketing, sportsmanship, breaking records, the era of the game, chip on their shoulder, competitiveness, drive, desire, how they made their teammates better, best closer, or pure God given talent?
Let me revisit the argument on these three players and whether each can be considered them the greatest of all time.
Let me start off by saying that neither Jordan or Kobe had the God-given genetics that LeBron James was gifted with. LeBron is a combination of Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Magic Johnson. Both Jordan and Kobe had to work extremely hard to put on weight while LeBron stopped being carded when he was 12 because he already looked 30. We also have to consider the fact that LeBron hasn’t been coached by the greatest coach of all time, Phil Jackson. LeBron was coached by mediocre to good coaches who were just getting started and never experienced winning a championship first-hand. And we also have to consider that LeBron is probably the best at making his teammates perform better because of his ability to get a triple double on any given night like he did in the final championship game. I would also give the sportsmanship nod to LeBron because he’s really a good person who feeds off of helping others. His 2010 season was the most difficult year of his career because of the amount of criticism he got. But he also learned that year that being a villain isn’t his natural self. He’s a nice guy by nature.
A year ago I wrote a blog titled “Top 10 greatest NBA players without a Championship ring since 1980” and LeBron and Dirk Nowitzki were both on that list. Dirk came off a week later after winning the Championship, and now LeBron who was ranked number one on that list, is officially removed from that list. Congratulations to him for winning his first championship. Well deserved.
Kobe has done things that neither Jordan nor LeBron have ever done before. As far as putting up numbers that are insane to think about, his 81 points in a single game is without a doubt a much tougher feat than Wilt Chamberlin’s 100 point game where he was flat out bigger than anyone else on the floor. Kobe’s had five, 60-point games. He played his game from the beginning with a chip on his shoulder — always like he had a point to prove. I’m not quite sure if he’s the type of player that makes his teammates better, but you couldn’t find a better student of the game. Kobe treats basketball like law students at Harvard treat their education. The best student the game has ever had.
Kobe’s career is an example of a constant improvement he made season after season. He picked up moves from Jordan, Hakeem, Dirk and many others but made them better than the original. I would also rank him above LeBron in work ethic which LeBron learned from after playing with Kobe in the Olympics. Kobe is by far a better shooter than both LeBron and Jordan. Kobe has had three games where he made nine 3-pointers or more. He still holds the record of making 12 threes in one game. Some will point out that LeBron and Jordan shot over 50% in their career, but Kobe didn’t have the inside game like LeBron and Jordan which effected his field goal percentage. But if you really want to compare a shooter, Kobe was a better free throw shooter than LeBron or Jordan, which is the best way to gauge pure shooting skills. But even as a Kobe fan, I myself couldn’t ever put him ahead of Michael Jordan.
From November 28, 1990 which was the first day we arrived in America, I became a Lakers fan. I clearly remember my sister and I watching the game where Jordan made the shot over Sam Perkins when he switched to the left hand. One thing I remember about Jordan is that whether you were a Jordan fan or not, you were very disappointed when he decided to retire and walk away from the game after his father passed away. The difference between Jordan or any other athlete in our era is that he became a Worldwide Icon. Aside from the fact that he has more rings than Kobe or LeBron, there are many other reasons this athlete seems like a comic book superhero that belongs in the Avengers, Fantastic Four, or one of the X-Men characters. Some even say that he is the closest any human being has ever come to being able to naturally fly.
I believe Jordan is someone who would’ve done well in life even if he hadn’t played basketball. He is more than his God-given abilities, and more about a drive and desire to prove to the world that he’s better than you think. You can’t teach desire or pure competitiveness. Neither Kobe nor LeBron will ever come close to the level of poise that Jordan possessed.. His confidence was, bar none, the best among any NBA player. There was also no one better at expecting and getting more from his teammates. He dominated his opponents not only physically, but emotionally and mentally. The more his opponents tried to get under his skin, the more they made him want to beat them. He was someone you just didn’t want to push around. Jordan had the eyes that saw through your soul. He is still the greatest of all time.
So bottom line, it’s way too early to consider LeBron as the greatest, but I do believe he’s just getting started. He could end up shocking the world with things we have not yet seen. Only time will tell.