As Lebron James sits on the brink of elimination in pursuit of his first NBA championship, the furious debate over who the best basketball player in the world between Kobe Bryant or James rages on.
Many people give Bryant the edge over James because he has more championship rings. One of the funniest scenes in the 2011 film, "Bad Teacher", involved Jason Segal's character arguing with a student about who was better between James and Bryant. Is this a legitimate way of comparing who's better? Not entirely.
Numerous of Hall of Fame greats including Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Karl Malone and dozens of others never won a single ring.
Surprisingly to most, of the five NBA rings that Bryant has won, he's only been Finals MVP twice. In comparison, Michael Jordan was Finals MVP all six times he won the NBA championship.
In Bryant's 16-year career, he's only been the league MVP once in 2008 while LeBron has already won it thrice and is only nine years into his career.
This tells us a few things:
1. MVP stands for Most Valuable Player, which equates the value to your team NOT the best player. James has been of more "value" to his teams and has had less high profile players playing with him up he left Cleveland for Miami in 2010. This gave him better odds of winning the MVP award in the eyes of the media. When Bryant had O'Neal on his team, his "value" shrank because the Lakers would arguably be a championship contender without him.
2. James has dominated the regular season. Bryant has dominated the post season.
3. This season, Kobe has experience a resurgence after undergoing an experimental knee surgery in Germany. If you dive into the statistical portion of this debate, it gets rather interesting.
This season, James averaged 29.9 points a game, 7.9 rebounds a game and 7.6 assists a game. Bryant averaged 30.4 points a game, 5.7 rebounds a game and 5.6 assists a game.
Their numbers are very similar, however there are things numbers don't tell you. Bryant has had a flurry of 40-point games this season and has been a driving force in many Laker fourth quarter wins. James on the other hand is dishing the ball more and grabbing more rebounds but defers to Dwyane Wade in the fourth quarter. James' numbers are almost exactly the same from when he won the MVP awards a few years ago.
The main reason James should be taken over Bryant is because he is more of a complete player. His passing abilities are phenomenal for a wing player and he rebounds the ball like a power forward. He is simply put, a freak athlete. Kobe is more of a pure scorer in a guards body who has slowly improved the other aspects of his game.
Kobe does have one thing James is not known for. He has the clutch ability as his X-factor attribute. He is known for his game-winning shots and miraculous buzzer beaters.
Despite all of this, the main point that most people forget is something pretty basic. Basketball is a team sport. No player can win a NBA championship by himself. Figuratively and realistically it can't be done. The Cleveland Cavaliers organization thought James could and didn't provide him with the necessary support.
Bryant had Shaq. Jordan had Pippen.
James had...Antawn Jamison?
This contributed to his reasons for leaving Cleveland. They didn't have the right pieces to win a championship. He left to go to Miami because he thinks they have the right pieces and SHOULD win the NBA championship this year.
People heavily criticize Miami for not winning the NBA championship last year. They have every right to do so as well. Think of it like this though. In their first year as a team, they were better than all 30 other teams in the league and made it to the NBA finals. In their first year together as a team! They didn't reach their goal of winning it all, but got very close.
To conclude, the better basketball player at this moment in time, and the best in the world is LeBron James. He's younger, has less wear and tear on his body and is a more dominant force in his prime.
When it's all said and done and both of these players are in the Hall of Fame, that's when the real debate will begin. LeBron has many more years left in his career and has tons of time to win a couple of rings. Kobe could also win another ring before he retires.
Meanwhile, in a unknown location, Jordan is laughing over a margarita with Magic Johnson about what LeBron James has accomplished. As of today, James has no rings to show for his effort and if the Heat don't pull out a victory in Game 6, his wait will continue into next season.