Monday, March 3, 2008

The Mamba vs. The King


After reading this article on FreeDarko, I decided I'd settle the debate once and for all. Kobe versus Lebron: Who ya got?

WAIT. If you think I'm going to really present my reasoning for this comparison, you must've forgotten what this blog is really about. I don't do a lot of sports analysis here at Fundamentally UnSound. I like to delve deeper into the why's, how's, theories, and philosophies that lie underneath the sports realm. So I'll talk about the argument itself; and why there'll never be a conclusion to this or any debates of its kind.

To summarize one of Krolik1157's points, professional athletes are deified. They allow us to witness things and events beyond life’s normalcy. Even pros themselves give their peers the same rarified reverence; so it’s a given for the, “fan” to do the same. However, because these demigods are fully human, the idea that a single person can perfectly dominate his or her field to the point that he or she is the universal truth is a ridiculous notion to me. Most people would acknowledge that Muhammad Ali is the greatest boxer of all time; but that’s my point. “Most” is not “all”; and “consensus” does not mean “everyone.” So, even though I believe with total conviction that Michael Jordan is the best basketball player ever; there’s someone, somewhere that doesn’t concur—to the point where their substantiations could possibly sway me to their position; or at least force me to, “agree to disagree.”

Different types of professional athletes appeal to different types of people. Some people prefer Kevin Garnett’s flash, flare, and unbridled emotion to Tim Duncan’s, well, winning. Like I said—using the last two sentences to stall and regain my train of thought—I’m going to show why it’s impossible for this debate to ever be 100% settled.

While sports allow us to observe the near-supernatural, it also tends to limit the length of time individuals sit atop the throne. For example, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal are the two most dominant basketball players since His Airness sank Utah in the 1998 Finals (man, I love that clip). Well, despite either Duncan or Shaq being in each NBA Finals (winning all but one title) since then—and being the main reason of their respective teams’ arrival there--they have three regular season MVPs between them. Dominance tends to become annoying, and everyone waits for the next revolution to come overthrow the ruler. This is why the Spurs continue to fly under that proverbial radar—and continue to accumulate the victories. This is why those who even remotely follow women’s college basketball forget how ridiculously impressive Courtney Paris’ record is. This disinterest with continuously great success comes with familiarity with the successful; but it also isn’t the only reason why Kobe versus Lebron will never be resolved…

In order for these kinds of debates to achieve timeless status, the two juxtaposed entities must either be radically similar; or radically different. The Kobe/Jordan debate is a product of the first qualification, while the Kobe/Lebron debate is product of the latter. On most occasions, the divisive line is drawn with racial ink/lead/chalk/paint/marker—which made it easy to compare Bird/Magic and Tiger/Nicklaus. With #24 versus #23, the debate is solely on their technique. It’s Kobe’s assassin-like precision against Lebron’s raw power. It’s Batman versus The Hulk. For you fans of third-person shooter video games, it’s Splinter Cell versus Grand Theft Auto. The reason for the intensity of the debaters is that we strive for finite answers—we want one of them to be universally number one. The reason it’ll never happen is that everyone’s math is different.

I’m not saying that there should be an understood, arithmetic truth. Intellectually sound debates are some of the best usages of social interaction. I’m saying that while you’re trying to convince that guy in the barbershop why Kobe’s better; there’s someone that can persuade you into becoming a true witness to Lebron.*



*For the record, it’s Kobe…

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