It’s honestly not even close. It someone irks me that so many casual fans and die hard Laker fans still want to keep Kobe in the GOAT discussion, but Kobe just isn’t in that discussion.
Let’s go over the reasons why Lebron is better:
- Lebron has more awards. Lebron has more MVPs, FMVPs, a ROTY, more All-NBA selections and he’s only 2 All-Star selections away from Kobe as well. The FMVPs especially matter since Kobe was not the best player on 3 of his championship teams while Lebron was the best player on all 4 of his.
- Lebron beats Kobe statistically in every category except for FT% (which lets be honest, Kobe has an advantage as a guard). Lebron beats Kobe in total points, total rebounds, total assists, total blocks, total steals, PPG, RPG, APG, SPG, BPG, FG%, TS%, Win shares, PER etc whatever stat you name. Lebron is ahead of Kobe in.
Those are the two main reasons why Lebron is better than Kobe, and those two reasons should be good enough for most people, but Kobe fans aren’t most people, I know there’s these ‘intangibles’ that people will argue for Kobe over Lebron on, so I’ll address some Kobe fan’s remarks here:
“Kobe should be in the GOAT convo, put some respect on the Mamba!”
Sorry, he’s not. He’s about the same level as Hakeem, and Hakeem is never mentioned in the GOAT convo. Also, Kareem, Duncan, Bird and Magic are all ahead of Kobe and never mentioned in the GOAT convo and I don’t hear their fans complaining. And yes Kobe could be considered the closest player to the GOAT (MJ) – but that doesn’t mean he’s anywhere near as good as MJ! It’s a logical fallacy to believe that someone was almost as good just because they were the ‘closest’. You can be the closest and still be really far away!
“Kobe is more loyal than Lebron. Lebron always jumps teams to chase championships and Kobe bled purple and gold”
Well, that’s not true. There’s multiple instances where Kobe requested a trade from the Lakers.
At the time Kobe had a bad squad and wanted out of LA. So it’s a misconception that Kobe was a die hard Laker.
Lebron actually stayed on a *really bad* Cavs team where the management would not give him anything for 7 years!! He had Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Larry Hughes and Mo Williams for 7 years as his second best players. Kobe – as much as his fans want to pretend he played with a bad team for most of his career – only had Smush Parker and Kwame Brown for 3 seasons. AND he had Lamar Odom who was better than any teammate Lebron had in his first 7 years. AND he still demanded to be traded everyday until they got him Pau Gasol.
“Kobe is more clutch than Lebron and has more killer instinct”
First of all what is killer instinct anyways? Is it always taking the last shot? Because Kobe factually is not as clutch as Lebron is.
^ there’s 12 minutes of Lebron being clutch and that’s only in the playoffs. Add the regular season and there’s probably an hour’s worth.
These are just some of the numerous stats that prove that Lebron is actually more clutch than Kobe is. Kobe’s clutch reputation is mostly based on myth more so than fact.
Kobe has never had any playoff moments as memorable as Lebron scoring the last 29 out of 30 points against Detroit in 2007, or that chasedown block against Iggy in the 2016 Finals. People seem to assume Kobe is more clutch based on the fact that Kobe is very aggressive and eager to shoot the last shot, whereas Lebron tries to make the right basketball play. However, they don’t seem to understand that taking the last shot regardless of basketball position usually leads to missed baskets, which has happened with Kobe far more often than he has made those baskets.
Kobe – 22.3 PPG / 5.7 RPG / 3.4 APG on 44% FG% in elimination games.
Lebron – 33.5 PPG / 10.8 RPG / 7.3 APG on 48% FG% in elimination games.
Kobe is 8-11 in elimination games while Lebron is 12-9.
Lebron is 8-20 in the final 24 seconds of a game and 6-11 in the final 10 seconds. He also has 5 buzzer beaters in the playoffs, the most of anyone all time, and is 7-15 on go ahead shots in the last 5 seconds in the playoffs
By any stat or any measure – Kobe is not more clutch than Lebron is. I think the main reason Kobe is perceived as more clutch is the media narrative, by casual fans who don’t really watch full NBA games of Kobe and Lebron they just believe what the media says about Kobe being clutch.
“Kobe is better at defense than Lebron”
Although Kobe has more All-Def selections than Lebron, this is misleading as Kobe was never a great defender, especially after 2003 where he started slacking on defense. His on ball defense was merely mediocre while his off-ball defense was virtually non-existent. For example here are the top 20 players according to the amount of love they got in All-Defensive team votes in 2011, sorted from best to worst by defensive RAPM:
Kobe is literally at the bottom, so how did Kobe get All-Def 1st team selection that year? I think again, this has much to do with the media. The media (contrary to what many Kobe fans believe as ‘hating’ Kobe after the rape case allegations and giving him only 1 MVP) has been more generous with Kobe than any other superstar. They gave him 11x All-Def 1st team selections despite him not earning even half of those selections.
Lebron on the other hand, is a versatile on ball and off ball defender and while he has slacked on defense during his Cleveland days, he was always in the DPOY conversation in his Miami days. But just like with Lebron’s career in general, his great performances on defense (and offense) often get overlooked. Lebron is hardly ever mentioned as an all time great defender even during the 2010s decade. Whenever you bring it up, fans will ridicule you. Just like if you say Lebron is all time clutch (borne out by statistical evidence), fans will ridicule you. It’s the whole media narrative that shapes fans perspective into believing that Kobe is a better defender than Lebron (he isn’t) and that Kobe is a better clutch player than Lebron (he isn’t).
“Kobe never needed a superteam to win”
Well, first of all – if you have prime Shaq do you really need a bunch of lesser HoFers on your team? The team is already good just having prime Shaq as a teammate right? Later on in Kobe’s career, he had to have exactly the right team built around him to win. Namely, a team full of players who are excellent rebounders and without big egos to clash with Kobe. Oh and it has to be a triangle offense system too because Kobe would never pass the ball to anyone else.
Also the statement is factually untrue because the 2004 Lakers and 2013 Lakers by the definition of having more than 2 HoFers on the team, can be called a ‘superteam’, it’s just that they weren’t successful, because most superteams are not successful. 1997 Rockets, 2020 Clippers are two other examples. Turns out Lebron is quite the exception since he elevates everyone else around him. Even Rondo and Dwight who people wrote off before this year started, became champions when they played with Lebron. Don’t think that would have happened with Kobe (because we know it didnt work with Kobe, twice).
And plus let’s look at Kobe’s Finals opponents – 2000 Pacers, 2001 76ers, 2002 Nets, 2009 Magic, 2010 Celtics. The only one out of that group that can be considered even remotely challenging is the 2010 Celtics – and that group could be considered just as old as the 2014 Spurs everyone makes fun of Lebron for losing against, age-wise. KG was not the same post-surgery and Perkins was out for the Finals. And he still needed 7 games to beat that team.
Lebron’s best teammate was 2011 DWade, then 2020 Anthony Davis. Wade would decline after 2012. Kyrie was not on the same level, and Love and Bosh just weren’t as good as people like to think. Plus look at Lebron’s Finals opponents – the only ‘easy’ one was the 2020 Heat. Kobe has never had to face a team as hard as the 2015–2019 Warriors, or the 2013–2014 Spurs.
“Kobe never had a Finals game as bad as Lebron did in 2011”
Kobe has had multiple Finals games arguably worse than Lebron’s 2011 Finals performance.
2000 Finals, Game 5 – Kobe had 8 points. Everyone who makes fun of Lebron’s 8 points in the 2011 Finals – well Kobe matched that here and no one ever brings this up. Kobe also averaged 15 PPG this series – lower than Lebron’s 17 PPG in 2011.
2004 Finals – Kobe shot 38% for the entire series. Including only 11 points on 31% in Game 3. Lebron has never had a Finals series that inefficient. Oh BTW – Kobe had 4 HoFers on that team and lost to a team with one all star. I really think the 2004 Finals was just as much an upset as the 2011 Finals.
2008 Finals, Game 4 – Kobe got 17 points on 31% shooting. That’s pretty awful.
2010 Finals, Game 7 – Kobe shot 6 for 24 that game. If it wasn’t for Gasol and Artest with some key moment plays that game, it would have ended in a loss.
“Lebron dropped the ball in 2009 to meet Kobe in the Finals”
This one irks me a lot because was Lebron supposed to make the Finals with his second best player being Mo Williams? That team was high in the regular season sure, but it wasn’t built for the playoffs. It was basically carried by Lebron. That he lost to Dwight Howard in 2009 wasn’t anything to be ashamed of. Dwight Howard was really really good in 2009 – people forget.
Also I think the more important question I have is why is Lebron being blamed for 2009 when Kobe had a chance to meet Lebron in 2011 and dropped the ball there and that never gets mentioned?
People always trash Lebron for losing to the 2011 Mavericks but Kobe lost to the exact same team as the defending champs – and got swept by them no less! And if you want to bring up Jason Terry’s stats against Lebron, you really should bring up the fact that Kobe and Terry were actually guarding each other – cause they actually played the same position! Lebron didn’t directly guard Terry, they played different positions.
“Lebron got cramps in the Finals and Kobe shot two free throws on a torn achilles”
This one is just stupid. Cramps can stop anybody. I’ll let Isiah Thomas explain it for me:
And shooting free throws is very different from actually playing in the game.
“Lebron flops and played in a soft era. Kobe would never do that”
First of all Lebron and Kobe’s careers overlapped. There was 13 years where they were both in the league together. Also, flopping is a way to get points in the modern NBA. every player does it. There’s literally no downside to doing it. None of this means that Lebron is ‘soft’ he just takes advantage of his era, just like ALL great players do.
“Lebron always takes credit when he wins, and blames others when he loses. He’s a toxic teammate. Kobe is a better leader.”
This one is possibly the most untrue of them all. Lebron has never ever blamed any teammates, no matter how badly they performed. And Lebron’s teammates have been just as bad as Kobe’s. Don’t let Kobe fans tell you that Smush Parker and Kwame Brown were the worst players in NBA history. They were not.
From 2003–2008, Lebron’s best teammate was Zyndrunas Ilgauskas. He took the 2007 team all the way to the Finals.
From 2009–2010, Lebron’s best teammate was Mo Williams. He won 66 games in the regular season with him as the second best player.
Kobe’s team was bad, but his second best teammate was Lamar Odom. Odom is better than either Zydrunas or Mo Williams, I’m sure anyone will tell you that. Odom was a very capable player, it’s just that Kobe fans want to focus on Smush and Kwame, well did you know Lebron played with guys like Daniel Gibson and Eric Snow? Sasha Pavlovic? Arguably just as bad as Smush and Kwame.
^ Lebron’s second best player on the 2007 team (Larry Hughes). He took that team to the Finals. His second and third leading scorers in the 2007 Finals was Drew Gooden and Daniel Gibson. Just a reminder: Lebron took a roster with Drew Gooden, Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, Eric Snow and Larry Hughes to the Finals. That’s arguably the worst supporting cast anyone has ever had in the Finals. At least Iverson had Dikembe Mutombo!
^ Kobe’s second best player on the 2006 team (Lamar Odom). Lamar averaging 19/11/5 a game. They lost in the first round. Same deal in 2007 where Lamar Odom averaged 19/13/2 a game – lost in first round.
Kobe’s best performance with that team was when he went up 3–1 against the Suns in 2006 in the first round, but then inexplicably stopped shooting the ball in the Game 7. Kobe fans tell me it was to ‘spite Phil Jackson’ but there’s no excuse for acting that way in any game. The only comparable times was when Rick Barry stopped shooting in Game 7 against the Suns in 1976 because his teammates didn’t back him in the fight, and when Pippen got angry at Phil for a play drawn up for Toni Kukoc in the 1994 series against the Knicks. Lebron has had no such temper tantrums.
Plus – Kobe’s fans often say he was robbed of MVP that year. Well, if you can’t make it past the first round, if you can’t elevate your teammates that much, how much of an MVP can you be right? And it’s reflected in the voting – Kobe was not on the MVP ballot in 2005 (no it was not related to the rape case, it was because he missed the playoffs), and in 2006 he was 4th place in MVP voting. So much for being robbed by Steve Nash. Lebron on the other hand took his pitiful teammates all the way to the Finals. That’s the difference.
Also, people like to talk about Lebron missing the playoffs in 2019 despite tearing his groin. Kobe missed the playoffs in the middle of his prime. It’s not like his teammates were any worse than Lebron’s teammates in 2019. Lebron’s teammates that year were Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma. None of these guys were actually as good as Lamar Odom. Explain that.
In addition, Kobe has infamously cursed out his teammates and trashed talked them in various interviews.
Lebron has never ever trashed his teammates publicly. Even when his teammates had a brain fart, like JR Smith did in 2018 Finals Game 1, or Markieff Morris in 2020 Finals Game 5. Kobe would have trashed them and ruined their careers. Instead, we have seen JR Smith welcomed back by Lebron and winning another ring, and Dwight’s career have a resurgence with Lebron.
There’s a reason why Lebron is able to ‘recruit’ other players to play with him – it’s because everyone wants to play with him! From AD to Rondo to Danny Green to McGee to Demarcus to former rivals like Lance Stephenson – they all want to come to LA to play with Lebron! In contrast – due to both Kobe’s personality and the fact that he had signed a huge contract with the Lakers post-injury depriving them of any cap space – the Lakers had been unable to acquire any big name free agents for 5 years after Kobe came back from injury.
There seems to be a double standard with Kobe and Lebron. Anything Kobe does that is arrogant or ego-tistic is played off by Kobe fans as being ‘alpha’ or having ‘mamba mentality’ whereas if Lebron had acted the exact same way he would be called ‘arrogant’ and ‘prima donna’.
Lebron called himself the GOAT you say? What an egotistical prima-donna.
^ Kobe called himself the same thing? It’s ok, we’ll brush it off because it’s Kobe.
All this is to conclude that I think Kobe’s negative traits and aspects get downplayed or brushed off by Kobe fans. He never ever gets the blame, meanwhile his fans always blame Kobe’s teammates instead. Dwight Howard was soft. Steve Nash was past his prime. Malone and Payton was past their prime. Shaq wasn’t in shape. Smush and Kwame were the worst players of all time. Kobe was just trying to teach Phil Jackson a lesson. Kobe was being tough on his teammates to toughen them up. Whenever Kobe wins a ring, it’s all him. 5 rings that’s all Kobe’s. Kobe carried the 2009–2010 teams. The rest of that team were scrubs.
Meanwhile for Lebron, it’s the opposite. He always gets the blame, his teammates never get any blame. Missed the playoffs? All because Lebron couldn’t elevate his teammates. Lost in the Finals? Because Lebron choked. Who cares if his teammates were injured, it was all Lebron’s fault. Won a championship? Well he needed help to win. He had a stacked team. He recruited too many superstars. His Finals path was too easy. He shouldn’t have passed the ball to Danny Green, he was too ‘scared’ of the moment. Kobe would never have done that. Also, Ray Allen and Kyrie Irving saved his legacy. Derek Fisher and Robert Horry’s shots? pretend it never happened. Kobe never needed anybody else taking the last shots. Of course not.
The double standards are pretty ridiculous. Whenever Lebron makes a clutch play, people never really talk about it. Whenever Kobe makes a clutch play, it gets remembered for all eternity. There are two games in particular that Kobe fans never fail to bring up: the 81 point game versus the Raptors and the 62 points in 3 quarters versus the Mavs. While impressive, they act as if Kobe never had any bad games and only had good games like these. Both of these were in the regular season. And they always point out how many 50 and 60 point games Kobe had. Well, it’s not hard when you take 40+ FGA a game:
Kobe holds almost half of the top 20 most field goal attempts all time. Obviously when you shoot more, you have a higher chance of scoring a lot of points. Just imagine if Curry, KD or Lebron shot this much a game?
Meanwhile with Lebron it’s the exact opposite: EVERYONE remembers Lebron’s 2011 Finals performance where he choked hard and scored only 8 points. How many people bring up the fact that Kobe had 8 points in Game 5 of the 2000 Finals? How many people bring up the fact that Kobe’s performance in Game 3 of the 2004 Finals was worse than ANY game of Lebron’s 2011 Finals? Heck, how many Lebron haters with the JJ Barea and Jason Terry memes don’t bring up the fact that Kobe was swept by the same team? And nobody ever brings up Lebron’s great performances even though he has great games ALL the time. They talk about Ray Allen’s shot in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals but never talk about Lebron’s 37 point effort in Game 7. They talk about Kyrie’s shot in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals but not Lebron’s triple double effort. Every one of Lebron’s Finals performances since 2012 are *at least* as good as Kobe’s BEST Finals (2009) performance. But Kobe’s are far more remembered.
So for Kobe, his great performances get remembered for all eternity while his bad performances are swept under the rug and Lebron’s great performances are swept under the rug while his bad performances get remembered for all eternity. It’s infuriating. Even more infuriating is when you bring up these facts and evidence, Kobe fans will accuse you of ‘hating’ or ‘disrespecting’ the man (especially now that he’s passed) and refuse to listen to you while insulting you and saying you ‘don’t know basketball’ and are a ‘casual’ when in fact it just proves that they are the ones who are in denial about the actual facts.
Finally, I’ll leave you with some stats about Kobe vs Lebron head to head:
Lebron leads Kobe 15–6 and has higher PPG, FG%, 3P%, APG, RPG in all their matchups.
Anyways, all this is to show that 1) Lebron is definitely better than Kobe and 2) Kobe fans are delusional and overrate the man quite a bit