In order to select between these two players and start a franchise with a franchise player; I will break them down Bill Simmons style.
At least to me this one is easy. We've seen Kobe Bryant be unstoppable and just dominate defenses for the past few years all the while making some of the toughest shots ever seen in basketball look ridiculously easy. He is currently bar none the best offensive player on the planet and capable of carrying a team. That being said, Lebron James is having one of the best seasons ever; putting numbers of 30 ppg , 8 rbg and 7 apg and 2 spg at the tender age of 23. Kobe put up similar numbers in the 2005-2006 season after playing 9 season in the league. This is not to suggest that he was incapable of pulling off such a feat before but rather to demonstrate that his numbers dramatically arose once he reached his prime. Lebron James on the other hand is putting up "Kobe numbers"( really if you look it up, it's more in the area of MJ and Oscar Robertson numbers, but you get the point) in only his 5th year in the league.
This obviously has nothing to do with being the best player in the league, however; when starting your franchise you want ticket sales, jersey sales and sold out arenas. In order to do that, you need your franchise player to be just that......"The Franchise". You want fans to fall in love with the player and just want to follow him through his ups and downs all the while boosting ratings and getting the team to play in front of national audience. This one in my estimation is a blowout: Kobe Bryant has always been an entertaining basketball player but has always brought a mixed bag of emotions amongst fans and media types (even before the Colorado scandal). He's easily the best player from a talent standpoint that we get to see on tv and yet, he is probably the most polarizing figure in NBA history. People will watch the games in the hopes of seeing him fail or succeed; however, how often do you see Kobe Bryant in commercials (outside of California) and what do we even know about him? I get the whole "keeping his life private" angle, but isn't there a certain perceived disconnect with him and his teammates? I'm not saying the guys around him don't like him, but what about the rest of America or for that matter the world?
Lebron James on the other hand presents a completely different persona. We have been in touch with several advertisements presenting some form of indication of his lifestyle and personality. For instance, the Lebrons give you an indication of his humor, business sense as well as his young adolescent side. We are presented with an idea of what it's like to spend time with Lebron and even know some of his affiliations (see Jay-Z).
Most people in general will tell you that #24 dominates this category but i beg to differ. Kobe Bryant is by far the best offensive player in the league. He has the ability to make defenders pay for mistakes made in covering him and will also make you pay even when playing great defense. He will lull you to sleep with his handle and then attack the basket; he will also put you in the torture chamber with his series of jump shots that he will consistently take and make to keep defenders at bay. His low post offense at the guard position is currently unmatched, not to mention his exquisite pump fakes. If that wasn't enough, he's a deadly free throw shooter and the most dangerous man in the building with the clock ticking down at the end of the game.
Lebron James presents a different skill set; his first step throws you off balance because of his size and he's a powerful finisher. Once Lebron gets by you and puts you on his hip, you might as well consider the play over as Lebron tends to draw an array of fouls and is able to convert several three point plays( and ones). However, Lebron's deficiencies present themselves in his jumper; although he has made several strides in improving his jump shot, he does tend to settle at times and is not yet the marksman that Kobe is. Furthermore, if the game is to be decided at the end with free throws, I'd put my money on Kobe Bryant hands down. As previously stated, it's the huge advantage that most people tend to think it is, but nevertheless......
This one is pretty interesting. Kobe is by far the superior defensive player as we have observed him lock down players starting with the season after his first championship season. Mind you, he no longer does it like once before; he will have stretches of excellent defense but he no longer does it consistently. We've seen Kobe Bryant shut down Tracy McGrady (while he played for Orlando Magic) in the 4th quarter of a game in the 2003-2004 season; but we've also seen Michael Redd go for 56 points at the Staples Center a few seasons ago and Gilbert Arenas go for 60 points last year in LA. That being said, his speed , quickness, strength and reputation allow him to defend and lock down players when he puts his mind to it.
Lebron James is a different bread of defender. Doug Collins mentioned it in the telecast last night (Cavs @ Bulls), Lebron will mostly coast through 3 quarters and play the passing lanes but will clamp down in the 4th quarter on the best perimeter player of the opposing team and shut him down. For instance, I've seen Lebron defend Kobe Bryant as well as anybody has in the league. Furthermore, I've observed him completey shut down the likes of DIrk Nowitzki and Brandon Roy. He remains disciplined and avoids biting on pump fakes and stays away from reach in fouls. Mind you, his frame makes it easy for quick shorter players to get passed him. Although I think Lebron will eventually own this category, he has not done it consistently enough for me to anoint him as a stopper.
Keep in mind my opinions are formed from what I see from afar; I am not in any team huddle or practice and therefore, any team insider could easily refute my claims. That being said, I never got the impression that Kobe was a great leader until this year. In years past, I never got the impression that guys loved playing with him or for him. It's really simple, do guys care when they play with you? Can you make them look better then what they are? Remember, under Rudy T. the Lakers looked horrible. They couldn't defend and couldn't really play as a unit. Even when they had the Suns on the brink of elimination with a 3-1 lead, I still wasn't convinced; and then there was that epic game 7 collapse in that same series which led to a lot of Kobe bashing. That being said, I've seen a completely different Kobe this year. He's decided to entrust his teammates with the game and encourage them through good and bad. He seems to care about the team's pulse and how it directly correlates to winning.
Lebron has consistently demonstrated his leadership skills from day one. Even as the young rookie on the team, he always preached about making his teammates better in order to grow and eventually win. Last year, the Cavs made it to the Finals in large part due to defense and rebounding. Teams that defend are usually the ones with a great identity and leadership: see Pistons, Spurs and Celtics to name a few. Team have to buy into the concept, and that requires patience and leadership. Leaders are able to rely on their followers while the followers rely on their leader to take them wherever they seek. Simply put, who would you rather play with? Lebron James in my opinion has done this better then his counterpart.
VIDEO GAME "PLAYABILITY"
This last one is simple: When starting to play a basketball video game (NBA Live 08 or NBA 2K8), who would you pick to play in a game of one on one, or which team would you start a dynasty with? If you crave finesse and wish to just shoot from all over the place and look good doing it, you pick Kobe and the Lakers. However, if your preference is to bully defenders around and get hacked and win ugly, you pick Lebron and the Cavaliers. Mind you, this would be extremely subjective as different people have different perceptions and preferences. In order to objectify this section, I had Kobe play Lebron in a game of one on one in NBA 2k8 at the Hall of Fame level with the game being up to 7.
Kobe started with the ball and made an array of fancy dribbling moves and jump shots to take a 3-0 lead. Lebron then came up with a huge block on a lay up attempt by Kobe and then back Kobe down in the post for a fall away jumper and the score is now 3-1 in favor of Kobe. Lebron then tries to take Kobe right but is shut off and then crosses right and goes to the hold for a powerful dunk; score 3-2. Lebron then shows his weakness by settling for jumpers and missing them all. In the meantime, Kobe gets several stops and then never looks back as he drains jumper after jumper punctuated by a reverse lay in for the game winner. Final score: 7-2 Kobe
After breaking them down, we've come to a draw with each player taking 3 categories. The tie breaker thus become my opinion which isn't necessarily unbiased. I love watching both guys play but Lebron James just seems to demonstrate a completely different level of basketball greatness at such a young age and will actually improve on what he's currently doing. In my estimation, we may end up talking about Lebron as one of the 5 best players ever.........therefore; with the #1 pick in the 2009 NBA Relocation Draft, the Silverback Gorillas select
*San Antonio Spurs claim top spot in western conference
*Javon Walker reportedly signs with Oakland Raiders
*Michael Beasley is apparently really really really good
*So is Derrick Rose
*If starting an NBA franchise today, Lebron or Kobe? Stay tuned, answer coming tomorrow....
Every now and then, if you pay attention carefully enough you can hear what some celebrities or athletes have to say about certain topics that may just leave you dumbfounded. For instance, I was checking out some NBA info when i stumbled on Brian Windhorst's blog (Cleveland Cavaliers beat writer) in which he was describing a conversation he had had with Larry Hughes. The article in it's entirety can be found here http://www.ohiomm.com/blogs/cavs/2008/03/02/cavs-vs-bulls/
Here is an excerpt:
–Here is what Larry Hughes said to me and Lisa Salters from ABC before the game. Lisa couldn’t believe it and made sure he knew what he was saying. Here it is:
“I play to enjoy myself, some people take this the wrong way, but winning a championship is not what I base everything on. I was given an opportunity to play basketball, travel around and have fun doing it and that’s what I want to do. I wouldn’t take being unhappy and not being myself and winning.I would rather enjoy myself with 18,000-20,000 people watching the game and the people sending fan mail and those things and be happy…I didn’t come here to play the point guard, that’s just it. I came here to run the wing, just like he was running the other wing. I was asked to sacrifice for the team to win and for everybody, I guess, get paid. That is what was told to me and I wasn’t happy with that.”
Do take note though that the boxscore is shady; some points seem to be missing. For example Qwest had a stretch in the game where he scored a few basket and yet only has 5 points for the game and Superstar made consecutive three point baskets in the 4th quarter and yet was not credited with any 3pt field goals in the 4th quarter. It is what it is, here it is.....