Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Time Has Come...

Remember when I used Kobe and Lebron to outline the reasoning behind the need for sports comparisons? Well, if you click the hyperlink and scroll to the bottom, you will see a small footnote about what previously were my feelings on who was better. Ah, but the winds of change are in the air, and sooner than I expected. The King has risen to usurp the Mamba's dictatorship atop the NBA. He now claims his rightful place as the best player in the Association. And for you Kobe supporters, the arguments are explained after the random picture...

For the record, Kobe Bryant didn't do anything to relenquish his title. That means that he hasn't lost that proverbial step or had a noticeable decline in effectiveness. This is all about Lebron and his ability to be faker than the post-Airness master of fake that is Kobe Dean Bryant. I'm not saying Lebron is better because Kobe is worse; I'm saying he's better because he's better.

The argument that I hear the most (and the one I was making prior to this season) is that Kobe is the more "complete" basketball player. The flaw that most people make when using this is that they equate the ability to knock down perimeter jumpers with overall completeness. Kobe is a better shooter than Lebron, but Kobe is also a better shooter than both Magic and Jordan; yet those two are more complete than the Mamba. Kobe does play hard on both ends of the floor; but Lebron is a vastly better rebounder and passer. For rebounding, he averages 7-8 a game on a Cleveland team that is consistently one of the best in the league with Ilgauskas/Gooden or Ilgauskas/Big Ben/Varejao taking away most of those opportunities. And I don't think we need to discuss passing. I'm not talking about Lebron's pseudo-no-look passes, but rather his court vision. Passing is his natural basketball gift in the way that jump shooting is Larry Bird's gift. Yes, Kobe is an all-world on-the-ball defender, but Lebron's man-on-man defense is pretty good; and his help defense is superior to Kobe's.

Critics would ponder why Lebron has yet to have the perimeter stroke of Kobe's. Part of that is due to him not having college training (remember, Kobe wasn't exactly deadly from the perimeter in his early years, either). Most of it is attributed to his physical superiority to anyone in the Association. Lebron came into the NBA at 240+ pounds, and he's listed at 274 pounds currently. Whether or not you believe the exact number is up to you, but no one can deny that he has put on more muscle mass over the summer. To put 274 pounds in perspective, he weighs more than DeMarcus Ware, James Harrison, Joey Porter (FIX YO MOUF!), and John Abraham--your current NFL sack leaders. But what makes Lebron different from being Ron Artest is his speed and quickness. I think Lebron beats every NBA player in a race except a healthy Tony Parker and Devin Harris. Factor in those 274 pounds, and you have the most unstoppable force to the basket ever. But even with all that physicality, he still has obey the rules. He can't just go through bodies, so he requires the same ball handling deception every perimeter player needs to get to the rim, as well as the grace and body control to finish there. And don't argue about the liberal interpretation of the traveling call. All NBA players enjoy it.

Personally, I'm a fan of superstar players that make lesser players better and lead them to wins. In short, I want winners. Stephon Marbury does not fall into such a category. With that said, only Larry Hughes can confidently say that he's had a better career without Lebron than with him. Anderson Varejao, Delonte West, and Daniel Gibson each owe Lebron a cut of their checks for what he's been able to do for them. This intangible is a trait that Kobe doesn't possess. For his supernatural abilities, he couldn't manage to up the level of his surrounding cast pre-Pau trade. Granted, one of those players was Kwame Brown, but everyone else he had is a player that can be replaced with someone else that does the same thing. For example, Sasha Vujacic-type shooters off the bench exist throughout the league (Kyle Korver, for one). My only dwelling on the past is that Lebron took a ragtag team, albeit in a weaker East, to the second round and then Finals; while Kobe managed to be first-round dustups for the Suns. Because Lebron's initial thought process is to distribute, getting lesser players involved isn't greeted with resistance by the urge to get buckets. Kobe could only find that balance with another near all-star. While the addition of Moe Williams has been beneficial to Lebron, Lebron does more for him than what is reciprocated.

For the readers that side with Kobe, when you leave your comments, don't bring up things like "multi-time All-Defensive Team," or, "81 points in one game." Those things happened awhile ago and are career achievements. You see, I didn't bring Lebron's Game 5 performance for that same reason. Consider that Lebron's jumper isn't a weakness, but it isn't his first option. He's realized that he's a basketball speeding locomotive and can get into the paint to finish like Shaq or make plays to his teammates like Chris Paul at his whim. Lebron is better at what he does than Kobe is at what he does offensively. It's not by much, but there is a definite separation. Lebron for the win, despite his recent wack commercial. Kobe ain't got like he got it anymore. Let the debate commence.


1 comment:

slaihing said...

Nice post. I agree that Lebron has caught up with Kobe, and is a better rebounder and passer then Kobe ever was/is. I am commenting specifically on your statement of Kobe being a better shooter then Mike. Not sure about that. Mike not only scored more on average, he was a more accurate shooter throughout his career. Kobe has yet to shoot 50% from the field, while Mike did it more then 3 times in his career. Kobe is a better 3 point shooter though, without a doubt. Outside of that? Nothing else. (maybe free throws? lol)