Rudy Gay: 6'8", 222 lbs.
If there's one thing that somewhat hinders Lebron's offensive onslaughts, it's a defender that's long and athletic. Until this point, only Tracy McGrady has possessed both traits; and even though that score didn't show it, he has given Lebron the toughest game thus far. Enter Rudy Gay,
Vince Carter: 6'6", 220 lbs.
There was a time when Vinsanity would have been the final opponent for Lebron. For the early part of this millenium, he was widely considered to be among the NBA's elite swingmen, if not the best. And then there's this. I don't need to tell you what that is because you should already know (nice draft pick, Knicks Front Office). Personally, I never bought into the hype, mainly because I felt his flash outweighed his overall substance. Needless to say, those times where he was mentioned in the elite class have come and gone; and Vince is merely a lazy shell of his former, Air Canada self. So why does he make a cameo on the final chapter of Lebron's saga? Well, as previously stated in Rudy
Joe Johnson: 6'7", 235 lbs.
Known as "The Reverend" to those in my circle of friends because of his peroidic baptismal of others in NBA 2k8, Joe Johnson is Lebron's third opponent on this final tier of players. I'm partial to Joe Johnson because I like the way he plays. He is in the top five of players I like, way ahead of The Mamba; but that list will be revealed soon enough. Johnson is a two-way player. He works best in an isolation-type offense, so the one-on-one game suits him fine. He also guards the opposing team's best offensive perimeter player in clutch times, assuming that Atlanta isn't being run out of the gym. Up until this point of this section of Lebron's journey, he would be The King's toughest challenge. He'd push Lebron into overtime; but despite more points scored, he wouldn't be as tough an adversary as T-Mac. Lebron's overall ability would eventually get him past The Reverend. Preach. Final score: Lebron 13, Joe Johnson 11.
Kevin Garnett: 6'11", 220 lbs.
Initially, some of you may disagree with KG's involvement in Lebron's journey, citing that he's a big man. However, Garnett is the epitome of versatility and isn't your traditional seven-footer (aside from like four people, who still is a traditional big man?). Few people remember that Kevin Garnett entered the Association as an extremely raw small forward, and developed into the other forward position because of his height and team need. KG could probably be a swingman if he so chose, and could perform admirably as one. Because of that, he is Lebron's next obstacle on the mountain of one-on-one. You can't teach height, and because KG is taller, Lebron can't bother his fadeaway on offense. And being a perennial NBA All-Defensive Team winner and this past season's Defensive P.O.Y., I think he knows a thing or two about stopping Lebron. Now he isn't quick enough to consistently keep Lebron in front of him, as Lebron can change direction quicker than most small guards, but there would be times that Lebron would find himself struggling to get clean looks at the basket. It wouldn't surprise me if he was losing early on in this game. Lebron would have to rely on every aspect of his physical being—quickness and core strength—to win. It would he long, seesaw battle between them; but Lebron, I believe, would somehow pull out a victory. Besides, he still has two more opponents. How lame would it be for him to lose here? Final score; Lebron 18, KB 16.
Paul Pierce: 6'6", 235 lbs.
The Truth has become quite the fan of himself recently, and who could blame him? He's the reigning Finals MVP, and went toe-to-toe with both Lebron and The Mamba and outplayed each of them in those respective series. His performance this past season has vaulted him into the "elite" category, and that's why he's the second-to-last opponent in Lebron's journey. However, while he is great, he probably doesn't crack the top ten on most people's "Best Player in the Association" lists—mine included. With that said, the man did look Lebron in the eye and defeated him in a seven-game series; despite Lebron putting on his cape in the final game. With his improvement on his man-to-man defense, he would be up to the task of trying to stop Lebron. However, I have this memory of Lebron dropping 45 points in said Game seven, with most of those coming against Pierce. Yes, they did go back-and-forth for the entire game, but the fact remains Lebron outpointed him. This is a game of one-on-one, and while The Truth would play tough, Lebron would eek out a victory. Final score: Lebron 22, Pierce 20.
Kobe Bryant: 6'6", 205 lbs.
We're finally here. This is the matchup that was envisioned at the conception of this ridiculous idea. Lebron vs. Kobe, and it's not a thorough explanation of the reason to have the comparison like I did before. There'll actually be a winner and a reason for said winning. I've been mulling this idea around in my head for awhile now. I've examined every aspect of both Lebron and Kobe's games. I even let the computer play it out ten times on NBA 2k8's one-on-one feature. Each player won five times. Kobe, despite what Paul Pierce may think, is the best basketball player in the world. Lebron, also despite Pierce's opinion, is the second-best player in the world. But this is one-on-one, where it's more about the matchup than just pure skill. I maintain that these two have been blessed with the most natural talent that hoops has ever seen, including His Airness. The Mamba has completely polished his diamond-encrusted game to perfection. He truly has no weaknesses on the floor, so why even have the comparison? The reason is because Lebron's level of awesome is the only one that rivals Kobe's. I believe it even surpasses Kobe's based on the fact that he hasn't even reached his peak. It's really scary to think just how good Lebron will be once he's Kobe's age...in six years. As far as the present, Lebron and Kobe would probably play the most exciting, competitive one-on-one game that could be arranged at this time. It's obvious that 11 points isn't enough to decide a victor; and most of the points would show the very definition of basketball. With the array of drives, jumpers, and post moves on display, one could make an instructional video on how to score. Kobe does have one distinct advantage over Lebron, and that is he plays the defense. He and Ron Artest are probably the only two people on Earth that could force Lebron into a bad offensive game. So, with all these factors in place, it's still tough for me to pick a winner. Does Lebron complete his three-post journey and walk away with a win? Or does The Mamba claim victory with his assassin-like precision? If they played one hundred games, Lebron would definitely win his share, almost to the point where they'd be considered equals. However, in a one-game scenario, there isn't one current player in the Association that I would bet on to win before Kobe Dean Bryant. And with that, he defeats Lebron in the most remarkable game of one-on-one this side of Jordan vs. Jordan. Final score: Kobe 39, Lebron 37.
And with that, Lebron's epic saga is complete. Losing to Kobe isn't so bad. Eventually, Lebron will be the gold standard for swingmen in the Association; but for now, The Mamba still reigns supreme. As always, debate in the comment box. Maybe this time I'll actually have some in there