-Lebron often gets put in the GOAT debate against Michael Jordan by analysts, but one other very polarizing player is often brought up by casual fans: Kobe Bryant. Why is this?
-Lebron is ranked ahead of Kobe by all major sports publications
-Lebron is ahead of Kobe in virtually every statistical category including advanced stats, except for FT%
-Lebron is catching up to Kobe and will very soon pass Kobe in the all time scoring leaderboard, despite playing 4 less seasons so far, and is already way ahead of Kobe in total assists and rebounds
-Lebron is also ahead of Kobe in MVPs, Finals MVPs, All-NBA selections and Rookie of the Year. Kobe has more rings, scoring titles, all-star selections and All-defensive selections.
Personally I believe Lebron is a greater player than Kobe. But many many NBA fans think that Kobe is better. If Lebron is so dominant statistically then why do so many NBA fans still think Kobe is a better player? Let me take some common arguments and break them down
1. Kobe has more rings and didn’t lose as much in the Finals
Rings is a team achievement but when comparing all time greats, it is one of the most common measures used to define a great player. Jordan has 6 rings. Kareem has 6 rings. Bill Russell has 11 rings. I don’t think it is quite fair to judge a player solely on rings though, since like I said there’s 4 other players on the team at any given time. Roughly 15-18 players win a ring every year, compared to only 1 player who wins MVP. But I digress.
And also Finals records, which only came up as a measure after Lebron lost his 6th Finals against the Warriors in 2015. At that time, he was 2-4 in the Finals. Now he’s 3-6 and will likely remain that way for the rest of his career.
Kobe is 5-2 in the Finals which is objectively better than 3-6, so that’s one argument that NBA fans use to debate why Kobe is better. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the fact that Kobe wasn’t the best player on his team for his first 3 rings, nor the fact that losing before the Finals is technically worse than losing in the Finals (since you need to make it to the Finals to have a chance to win a ring). Much is also made of Lebron missing the playoffs this year in 2019. Keep in mind that Kobe also missed the playoffs once in his prime, in 2005, as well as his last 3 seasons with the Lakers.
2. Kobe didn’t need a ‘superteam’ to win, played in a tougher conference
This is technically an incorrect argument, if you consider the definition of a superteam. If people want to define superteam as superstar players that join the team, that are not originally drafted by the team, then Kobe technically joined a superteam when he was drafted!
Since he was drafted by the Hornets, not the Lakers, he was traded to the Lakers after. Ok, so let’s not be technical. I guess that doesn’t count. How about Shaq joining as a free agent that same year? Does that not count as a superteam? What about when Gary Payton and Karl Malone joined the Lakers in 2004 looking to win a ring? Was that not a superteam? Or when Kobe and Gasol teamed up with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in 2012? Is that not a superteam? I mean, Karl Malone was still an effective player, and Dwight Howard was still in his prime at that time; he led the league in rebounding that year.
So why is Lebron joining Wade and Bosh in Miami a superteam, but apparently not Kobe’s team in those years?
3. Kobe played in a tougher conference
As for playing in a tougher conference – it’s irrelevant. If this argument is to imply that Lebron cruised his way to the Finals, then you cannot make the argument that Lebron lost in the Finals more – because if the West was tougher and had better teams then Lebron should have always had a uphill battle against those Western teams (which he did). He lost more Finals because he faced tougher teams, because those teams came from the Western conference. If Lebron played in the West, he would have needed a really good team to get to the Finals, increasing his chance of winning when he got there, and thus had a better Finals record. So if you put Lebron in the West, he would have ironically had a much better Finals record than he does now, which undermines other argument that Lebron is worse because he lost more Finals.
4. Kobe was more loyal to his team and never quit on his team
Again, not really a factual argument. Kobe asked to be traded several times in his prime, when he had a bad team back in 2005-2007. Back then, Kobe wanted to be traded to the Pistons, Bulls and even the Clippers. Finally the Lakers management got Pau Gasol sent from the Grizzlies to the Lakers, dramatically improving the Lakers chance of winning. Adding Gasol in 2008 took the Lakers from a first round exit in 2007 all the way to the Finals. Lebron played in Cleveland for 7 seasons, where the management did not surround him with any good players, then went to Miami, then came back to the Cavs to win them their first championship ever. I’d say at that point any perception that Lebron isn’t loyal should be thrown out the window – he brought the Cavs to every one of its Finals in franchise history and won them their only ring.
5. Kobe was tougher than Lebron
I think this is a general argument thats been applied to anyone in the current NBA. the argument that the current NBA is ‘too soft’, that players like Lebron and Harden wouldn’t be able to play in the 80s and 90s because they wouldn’t handle the physical abuse, that’s all popular narrative, but isn’t really true. Modern day NBA players take advantage of the no hand checking rules, and as a result, flop more so that they have more opportunity to shoot free throws. This is a smart strategy, which results in free points for them. It has nothing to do with being ‘soft’ or ‘tough’. Kobe would have done the same thing in his era, because he would have averaged more points doing so. It’s laughable that Lebron, a 280lb freight train of a man, would have trouble in the 80s or 90s with hand checking rules. He flops because the rules are different, not because he’s weak. And yes I know that Kobe tore his Achilles and sank two free throws in 2013 while Lebron got a cramp in 2014 and had to be carried off the floor. Different circumstances, different injuries. But Isiah Thomas and many other former players have backed Lebron up in saying that when you got a cramp you literally cannot even move.
6. Kobe was more clutch than Lebron and had ‘killer instinct’
Again, not borne by the facts. As all the stats show. Kobe is 7/28 in last 24 seconds of 4th quarter of the playoffs while Lebron is 8/22 a much higher percentage. Kobe fans want to say ‘but he had 36 game winners in the regular season!’. But that’s the regular season, ask anybody clutch plays matter in the playoffs way more than in the regular season. Unlike Lebron’s game saving block on Andre Iguodala in the 2016 Finals, Kobe does not have a highlight game winner in any Finals. For those people who like to say that Ray Allen and Kyrie Irving saved Lebron’s legacy btw, I would also like to mention that basketball is a team game, there’s 5 people on a team, not one, and that Robert Horry and Derek Fisher saved Kobe the exact same way so… yeah. And the whole ‘killer instinct’ and ‘mamba mentality’ are nice buzzwords that Kobe can use to sell his products, but all it really means is that Kobe likes to take the shot more. Whether he hits it or not, doesn’t matter. Lebron has a tendency to pass the ball in the closing moments, making a better basketball decision instead. Kobe’s mamba mentality might be a better narrative for marketing himself, but in a real life basketball game you would not want to play with the teammate who takes all the shots all the time; you would much rather play with a teammate who would pass you the ball when you are open so that you can make the shot.
7. Kobe was robbed of MVPs
Again, not true. The MVP voting shows that Kobe was not on the MVP ballot in 2005 (the year Steve Nash won it), 4th place in 2006 (the second year Nash won it), 3rd place in 2007 (when Dirk won it), before winning it in 2008. The year you could say Kobe got ‘robbed’ was 2009, although Lebron’s win shares that year clearly favor him. For all the talk that Nash robbed Kobe – you can see clearly that you can’t be robbed when you were not even on the ballot and 4th place. If anything it was Dirk that got robbed.
8. Kobe was more skilled than Lebron – and he’s the closest to Jordan
I think this has something to do with the perception that smaller guards are more ‘skilled’ than big men due to big men having the size advantage. I don’t think this is fair to Lebron since Lebron didn’t choose to be born taller or stronger, but this is also a reason why some other GOAT candidates like Kareem, Wilt and Russell often get left out of the GOAT debate; not only because they played a long time ago, but also because they were big men. And same thing with Tim Duncan, who’s resume compares very favorably with Kobe yet is almost always left out of the GOAT debate. But because Duncan is a big man, he is not seen as ‘skilled’ as Kobe is, less people argue for his place in the GOAT debate than Kobe fans. And yes skillwise, Kobe is the closest to Jordan. But that doesn’t mean he should be #2 just because Jordan is #1. The gap between Jordan and Kobe is actually quite large, and although out of scope for this video, anyone can google and see that Jordan beats Kobe in pretty much every category – and not by a small amount.
9. Kobe is a better scorer than Lebron
The scoring statistics Kobe fans like to bring up, how many 60 points games he scored, that famous 81 point game, and scoring more than the entire Mavericks team in 3 quarters, etc again, makes for an exciting headline, but is not really a good argument since basketball is about so much more than scoring. Else Wilt Chamberlain would be the GOAT. And not just that but Kobe is famously inefficient when he scores. That 81 point game he shot 46 times making him unusually efficient that night, but that’s not his usual FG%. For example in his last game, he scored 60 points on 50 shots. Which is ridiculous. For comparison, Steph Curry’s 3PT % (44%) is almost as high as Kobe’s 2PT % (44.9%). If Curry shot as much as Kobe did, one could only guess how long it would take Steph to break Kobe’s 81 points.
10. Lebron is a toxic teammate and has a big ego
Again, an incorrect assumption. Lebron formed a “superteam” with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh – you can’t form a superteam if players don’t want to play with you. And of course many other players have joined Lebron including Kevin Love, Ray Allen, Kyle Korver, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Javale McGee, etc The assumption that he is a toxic teammate comes from Kyrie Irving wanting to part ways with Lebron because he wanted to be an alpha dog (so far not having much luck there), and the perception that Lebron ‘takes over’ every team that he joins. That’s because Lebron is an alpha dog and a superstar player. This is ironically, the trait that Lebron haters accuse him of not having, those leadership qualities. Taking over a team and being the alpha dog is by definition, being the leader. Those are leadership qualities, the same kind that dare I say it, Michael Jordan exhibits whenever he leads a team. No one complains that Jordan took over a team too much though. And here’s more hypocrisy: Kobe was the primary reason why Shaq left LA and went to Miami. Kobe was a BIG factor in why free agents weren’t signing with the Lakers in Kobe’s last years. Kobe was also taking up the highest salary in the league while staying injured. Nobody wanted to play with Kobe, because Kobe is known to be a demanding player. But Kobe didn’t get any hate for it the way Lebron did. And same thing with the ego as well. When Lebron called himself the GOAT in an interview, people went nuts. They criticized him left and right. Just recently, Kobe Bryant did the exact same thing and ranked himself the GOAT above Jordan and Lebron. And no one cared. He also trash talked Smush Parker in a podcast when Lebron refused to criticize JR Smith for his 2018 Finals Game 1 blunder. Kobe would have massacred JR for that mistake. So why is Lebron perceived as arrogant and its a criticism but Kobe is arrogant and its a positive about him? Bottom line is you cannot accuse Lebron of being a toxic teammate and having a big ego when Kobe had literally the same issues.
Bonus argument: Most players think Kobe is better therefore Kobe is better than Lebron
Most NBA players grew up watching Kobe or Jordan play. They idolized Kobe and Jordan – so its not a stretch as to why so many players prefer Kobe – now that more players prefer Kobe is actually not true because the recent NBA players poll indicated that most (over 70%) considered Jordan the GOAT and Lebron was a few percentage points over Kobe as the GOAT. so the reality is actually over 70% of NBA players think Jordan is the best (unsurprisingly), and an almost equal number think Lebron and Kobe are the best (with Lebron slightly higher). So it’s false that more NBA players think Kobe is better than Lebron.
Ok, I went through 10 arguments + a bonus NBA fans had for Kobe and dissected them. Let me know if you have any counter-arguments and let me know in the comments below. Thanks for watching!