Kobe Bryant. It’s hard to imagine a more polarizing player. Kobe is arguably the most popular player of all time (possibly even more than Jordan due to his exposure in China). He has a massive legion of incredibly devoted fans, and he was the most well marketed player of his generation (due to no small part to his Jordan connection). On the other hand, he is considerably less popular amongst basketball analysts, which is why his all time ranking can vary between top 2 amongst his fans (who place him right behind Jordan) and top 15 amongst sports publications (ESPN had him ranked at number 12 in 2016, then number 9 after his tragic death).
On the other hand, we have Chris Paul, a player who is considerably less popular amongst NBA fans than amongst basketball analysts. Some fans are adamant he is an overrated player, but advanced analytics show him as one of the greatest players (not just PGs) of all time.
Oh wait, I meant Lebron James. Yes CP3 has that reputation. But Lebron even more so. Lebron is easily the most hated athlete of his generation:
Many articles have mentioned this but here’s a few for example:
demonstrate just how hated he is, or even just a quick perusal of social media and you can find all the Lebron hate memes out there. And just like CP3, basketball analysts love Lebron. Statistically and advanced analytics have him as a top 2 player of all time.
So why is this disparity here between Kobe and Lebron? Many fans still believe that Kobe is better than Lebron even though virtually all the numbers favor Lebron. Lebron has the advantage in nearly every statistical category except for FT%, and the advantage in every award category except for # of championships and All-Defensive. In addition, unlike Kobe, Lebron has never had any off court or locker room scandals. And despite that, he is still much more hated. I think part of that may be due to the pervasive double standards and myths between these two players.
Now keep in mind, I am merely laying out the facts for these players, because Kobe is so beloved by many, anything not praising him (especially after his tragic death) is automatically seen as ‘hating’ and for Lebron because he is so hated by many, anything defending him is automatically seen as being a ‘bron d*ck rider / bronsexual’ – such are the double standards applied to these two players. The media and retired players know that anything negative towards Kobe would be met with a large amount of backlash and that’s why there are so few media articles that are negative towards him, and why so few players now (compared to the past) speak negatively about Kobe. I merely want to be unbiased because I am not a big fan of either player and just want to lay out the truth. To be as objective as possible thats why I back up everything I say with sources and evidence.
Myth #1: Kobe bled purple and gold while Lebron always jumps teams to chase rings
Kobe fans believe that he was a die hard Laker at heart for his whole career, but that’s revisionist thinking. Kobe demanded for trades many times when he was with the Lakers, especially during 2006-2008 before they got Pau Gasol, when he was surrounded with ‘bad’ players. Kobe was in trade rumours with Chicago, Detroit and even to the Cavs for Lebron (which the Cavs turned down). It’s very likely that had the Lakers not got him Pau Gasol, he would not have been a Laker for life at all.
With Lebron, the facts are that the Cavs management was not the Lakers management. Not only did Lebron never have any coach on the level of Phil Jackson, but his best supporting co-stars are in order: Ricky Davis (2003-2004), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (2005-2006), Larry Hughes (2007-2008), and Mo Williams (2009-2010). Yes the Cavs got him Shaq and Ben Wallace, but they were shells of themselves by the time they played there.
Lebron gave the Cavs 7 years of his career the first time around. He never asked to be traded during this time. He left when he was a free agent, as was his right to do so. He then went to Miami, a team which had been firmly in the middle of the pack in the East.
He then stayed in Miami for 4 years, left when he was a free agent again, went back to Cleveland (when he could have chose even better teams to go to), led them to 4 Finals in a row and their only championship, and then left for LA after.
Lebron has played for 3 teams his whole career, 11 of them with the Cavs, he is the Cavs all time leader in every category and brought them to every Finals in their history as well as their only championship. To say that he wasn’t ‘loyal’ is really exaggerating things. There have been players who have played for less than 11 seasons for a franchise yet are considered lifelong players for that franchise (i.e Willis Reed, Tom Heinsohn, Yao Ming).
Myth #2: Kobe played with the worst teammates ever and carried his team to 2 rings while Lebron needed a superteam to win
Kobe definitely played with bad teammates but it wasn’t ‘the worst teammates ever’ and he had a lot of help when he went back to back in 2009 and 2010.
Let’s break down the facts here: Kobe missed the playoffs in 2005 without Phil Jackson. Once Phil Jackson came back and he had his best scoring seasons, it wasn’t enough to get past the first round of the playoffs. Kobe fans always want to point out that he played with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown.
Let’s keep in mind Smush Parker and Kwame Brown were only with the Lakers for 2 seasons, although his fans might want you to think Kobe played with them for a lot longer than that. 2006 and 2007 his worst teammates production wise were Smush Parker and Jordan Farmar.
Kobe’s teammates – 2006 (playoffs):
Lamar Odom: 19 PPG / 11 RPG / 5 APG
Smush Parker – 9 PPG / 3 RPG / 2 APG
Luke Walton – 12 PPG / 6 RPG / 2 APG
Kwame Brown – 13 PPG / 7 RPG / 1 APG
Kobe’s teammates – 2007 (playoffs):
Lamar Odom: 19 PPG / 13 RPG / 2 APG
Kwame Brown: 9 PPG / 6 RPG / 0 APG
Luke Walton: 7 PPG / 4 RPG / 3 APG
Jordan Farmar: 6 PPG / 3 RPG / 2 APG
Lamar Odom was a very talented player who could shoot well, rebound well and distribute well for his size. In the playoffs, he gave Shawn Marion and the Suns all they could handle averaging 19 PPG, 11 RPG and 5 APG in the 2006 series and 19 PPG, 13 RPG and 2 APG in the 2007 series. He was way better than any teammate Lebron had 2003-2010. None of his teammates either by the eye test or by the stats, could match up to Odom’s production and skills. When Kobe fans talk about his ‘bad’ team, they almost never mention Odom or dismiss him as an ‘inconsistent cokehead’ when really he was a solid player who really should have been an all star at least once in his career. In my opinion, Odom, Cedric Maxwell, Michael Cooper and Rod Strickland were the best players in NBA history never to be all stars.
Kwame Brown and Luke Walton were no star player and definitely not as good as Odom, but they were ok in the Suns series as they averaged 12 PPG and 6 RPG in the 2006 series. The Lakers were up 3-1 in that series because the Suns lacked the size to deal with the Lakers, as they were missing Amar’e Stoudemire due to injuries. But despite even the handicap, they still lost in 7. In 2007, Stoudemire came back and the Lakers had a much tougher time winning, only winning 1 game against them.
Now should they have won in these series? Maybe not in 2007, but I would argue that in 2006 they should have beaten the undermanned Suns as the Lakers had much more size, both Kobe and Odom were doing very well against them, and even Kwame and Luke Walton showed up. And let’s not forget the Lakers had a much better coach in Phil Jackson on their side.
Now let’s look at Lebron’s 2006 and 2007 teams to compare. Lebron took his 2006 Cavs team to the 2nd round and lost in 7 games against the defending Eastern conference champion Pistons, and in 2007 took his Cavs team all the way to the Finals.
Lebrons’ teammates – 2006 (playoffs):
Larry Hughes – 11 PPG / 3 RPG / 4 APG
Eric Snow – 7 PPG / 3 RPG / 3 APG
Ronald Murray – 8 PPG / 3 RPG / 2 APG
Zydrunas Ilgauskas – 10 PPG / 6 RPG / 1 APG
Lebron’s teammates – 2007 (playoffs):
Larry Hughes – 11 PPG / 4 RPG / 2 APG
Zydrunas Ilgauskas – 13 PPG / 10 RPG / 1 APG
Sasha Pavlovic – 9 PPG / 3 RPG / 2 APG
Drew Gooden – 11 PPG / 8 RPG / 1 APG
In 2006, His second best teammate was Larry Hughes in the playoffs, clearly not comparable to Lamar Odom. His third best player was Zydrunas Ilgauskas. His other players? Eric Snow and Ronald Murray. By the numbers, Kwame Brown and Luke Walton were more productive than Lebron’s second and third best players and Lamar Odom was beyond anyone Lebron had on that roster.
In 2007, Lebron’s second best player that playoffs was Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Larry Hughes. His other teammates were Sasha Pavlovic and Drew Gooden. Zydrunas in this playoffs was a bit better than Kwame and Luke Walton’s, but not by much. Sasha Pavlovic, Eric Snow and Ronald Murray were roughly equal to Smush Parker and Jordan Farmar. Drew Gooden was about equal to Kwame and Walton. And again, there was no teammate Lebron had that was close to Lamar Odom. And Lebron’s coach was Mike Brown, a far cry from Phil Jackson. Despite this, this team went to the Finals.
Now, you might say that’s because Lebron played in a weaker conference, but Lebron took the 2006 Pistons to 7 games – a team that won 64 games! – and beat the 2007 Pistons – a team that won 53 games. He did this with minimal help. Keep in mind that the 2004 Pistons who beat Shaq and Kobe in the Finals ‘fair and square’ won 54 games – only 1 game more than the 2007 version. Despite what people say, the 2007 Pistons weren’t actually that far off from the championship version. They lacked Ben Wallace yes, but they technically had more all stars (2007 had Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups as all stars, 2004 only had Ben Wallace as an all star). And Kobe himself lost to 2 different teams from the Eastern conference in the Finals so how weak could the Eastern conference really be?
Then in 2008, the Lakers were struggling until they got Pau Gasol. Remember, Kobe won MVP this year despite his stats and scoring production not matching up to his previous 2 years. This is because MVP is actually an award based on team record as well. Kobe’s team got better, not him. And after the addition of Gasol, the Lakers went straight to the Finals that year. The Lakers then won 2 straight after that.
Let’s break down the Lakers roster 2008-2010 that Kobe ‘carried’ compared to Lebron’s ‘superteam’ roster 2012-2014:
2008 Gasol (playoffs): 17 PPG / 9 RPG / 4 APG
2009 Gasol (playoffs): 19 PPG / 10 RPG / 3 APG
2010 Gasol (playoffs): 19 PPG / 11 RPG / 3 APG
2008 Odom (playoffs): 14 PPG / 10 RPG / 3 APG
2009 Odom (playoffs): 11 PPG / 8 RPG / 3 APG
2010 Odom (playoffs): 10 PPG / 9 RPG / 2 APG
2012 Wade (playoffs): 23 PPG / 5 RPG / 4 APG
2013 Wade (playoffs): 16 PPG / 5 RPG / 5 APG
2014 Wade (playoffs): 18 PPG / 4 RPG / 4 APG
2012 Bosh (playoffs): 14 PPG / 8 RPG / 1 APG
2013 Bosh (playoffs): 12 PPG / 7 RPG / 2 APG
2014 Bosh (playoffs): 15 PPG / 6 RPG / 1 APG
Clearly, Gasol was the second best player on the Lakers, but most people don’t realize how good Odom was as well. Just by the numbers, Odom as a starter was just as productive as Bosh was in scoring, and was a better rebounder and passer than Bosh to boot. Yes, Bosh did sacrifice for his role on the team, but we have to realize that he was putting up the same numbers as Odom was. Wade was definitely the Heat’s second best player, but it’s not clear that he made more impact on the team than Gasol did for the Lakers, especially when u take into account that post 2012 Wade declined a lot, and post 2008 Gasol only got better.
It’s clear to see here that the reports of Kobe having to ‘carry’ his team, his team being garbage etc is just not true. In 2006-2007, it’s easy to see that Kobe had a better team than Lebron did. And the 2008-2010 Lakers, it’s not clear that Lebron’s ‘superteam’ teammates of Wade and Bosh were actually more productive than Gasol and Odom were for those teams. From a high level, a casual fan would say that Lebron played with more all star teammates, but when you dig into the numbers you can see that Kobe’s team was a lot better than people think, and actually matching Lebron’s teammates in productivity.
Myth #3: Kobe is all time clutch, has ‘killer instinct’ and Lebron chokes and is ‘scared of the moment’
This is a common reason cited by Kobe fans. He’s a ‘killer’ and ‘cold blooded assassin’. He had ‘mamba mentality’. But what do those buzzwords really mean? When it comes to clutch ability, most people believe that Kobe is all time clutch. A lot of NBA players and coaches believe this as well. A lot of it comes from the fact that Kobe is a very trigger happy player who never met a shot he didn’t like, and his willingness to shoot and hit tough shots adds to this reputation. Kobe’s greatest strength – his ability to hit tough shots – was also his greatest weakness, because he was often too willing to try to make these shots. But that’s partly what adds to this reputation.
Yes Kobe scored a lot of 4th quarter points and had a lot of (regular season) buzzer beaters, but this is because of simple math: the more shots you take in the 4th quarter, the more likely you are to score a high amount of points and hit a buzzer beater when the game is close.
In the regular season, Kobe could get away with this more, but in the playoffs when the defenses are tighter, that’s where you see his reputation for ‘clutch’ ability starts to slip.
There are shortage of articles that show the truth – Lebron is actually measurably more clutch in the playoffs than Kobe. While Kobe is a clutch regular season player, when the postseason comes Lebron has the advantage by a large margin.
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.
Kobe was also 7-28 on shots in the last 24 seconds of games and 5-22 in the final 10 seconds. He has only 1 buzzer beater in the playoffs.
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.
Whenever we do a comparison of all time greats, what matters is your performance in the Finals, period. That’s the biggest stage, and where you win championships. Fair? Ok so let’s look at Kobe’s Finals performances versus Lebron’s performances (I’ll highlight the best numbers in bold):
Kobe – 2000 Finals – 15.6 PPG / 4.6 RPG / 4.2 APG / 36.7% FG%
Kobe – 2001 Finals – 24.6 PPG / 7.8 RPG / 5.8 APG / 41.5% FG%
Kobe – 2002 Finals – 26.8 PPG / 5.8 RPG / 5.3 APG / 51.4% FG%
Kobe – 2004 Finals – 22.6 PPG / 2.8 RPG / 4.4 APG / 38.1% FG%
Kobe – 2008 Finals – 25.7 PPG / 4.7 RPG / 5.0 APG / 40.5% FG%
Kobe – 2009 Finals – 32.4 PPG / 5.6 RPG / 7.4 APG / 43.0% FG%
Kobe – 2010 Finals – 28.6 PPG / 8.0 RPG / 3.9 APG / 40.5% FG%
Lebron – 2007 Finals – 22.0 PPG / 7.0 RPG / 6.8 APG / 35.6% FG%
Lebron – 2011 Finals – 17.8 PPG / 7.2 RPG / 6.8 APG / 47.8% FG%
Lebron – 2012 Finals – 28.6 PPG / 10.2 RPG / 7.4 APG / 47.2% FG%
Lebron – 2013 Finals – 25.3 PPG / 10.9 RPG / 7.0 APG / 44.7% FG%
Lebron – 2014 Finals – 28.2 PPG / 7.8 RPG / 4.0 APG / 57.1% FG%
Lebron – 2015 Finals – 35.8 PPG / 13.3 RPG / 8.8 APG / 39.8% FG%
Lebron – 2016 Finals – 29.7 PPG / 11.3 RPG / 8.9 APG / 49.4% FG%
Lebron – 2017 Finals – 33.6 PPG / 12.0 RPG / 10.0 APG / 56.4% FG%
Lebron – 2018 Finals – 34.0 PPG / 8.5 RPG / 10.0 APG / 52.7% FG%
Lebron – 2020 Finals – 29.8 PPG / 11.8 RPG / 8.5 APG / 59.1% FG%
So yeah.. you decide who had the better Finals performances, but it should be obvious.
Lebron has always been considerably better not only in the clutch but overall in the postseason compared to Kobe. That Lebron somehow is perceived as not clutch or ‘scared of the moment’ is one of the biggest myths in modern basketball.
People always remember Lebron shying away from the ball in the 4th in the 2011 Finals or passing to Danny Green in the 2020 Finals but there’s many more times when Lebron took over, it just isn’t publicized as much:
^ Just last season, Lebron went off for 21 points in the 4th quarter against the Cavs.
^ This season, Lebron took over in the 4th to win a close game against the Rockets as well.
Myth #4: Kobe was an all time elite defender, Lebron was not
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:
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.
Also I can pull up a list of guards who dropped 35+ on Kobe:
-Allan Houston (50 pts)
-Gilbert Arenas (60 pts)
-Steph Curry (47 pts)
-Allen Iverson (51 pts)
-Stephen Marbury (50 pts)
-Steve Francis (44 pts)
-Dwayne Wade (40 pts)
-Ray Allen (35 pts)
-Chauncey Billups (39 pts)
-Baron Davis (37 pts)
-Kyrie Irving (35 pts)
-Michael Jordan (36 pts)
-Jason Kidd (35 pts)
-Jeremy Lin (38 pts)
-Reggie Miller (39 pts)
-Gary Payton (36 pts)
-Tracy McGrady (38 pts)
-Latrell Sprewell (37 pts)
-Kemba Walker (38 pts)
-Jason Terry (36 pts)
-Russell Westbrook (37 pts)
-Deron Williams (35 pts)
How about when Cuttino Mobley and Steve Francis dropped 73 on Kobe? Source: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbApp17M1RY
Or when Bonzi Wells did really well against Kobe? Source: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WW4Ot9Qqb8
Or when Jason Terry dropped a record 9 3 pointers against him to close out Game 4 in 2011? Source: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCYFcns8Xj8
If Kobe’s 12x All-Def selections were legit, how does this many opposing guards drop this many on him? In the case of Lin, Houston and Arenas, it was their career high too!
Myth #5: Kobe was robbed of MVP in his prime, media and NBA hated him
This seems to be a common myth amongst Kobe fans is that he was somehow robbed of MVP by the media because of his rape case (which no one ever brings up in the #MeToo era for some reason). But that’s definitely not true.
Their reasoning is Kobe averaged 35 PPG in 2006, and carried a ‘really bad team’ to the playoffs and therefore somehow still deserves MVP over Steve Nash, who although only averaged 19 PPG, had a better record with 54 wins compared to the Lakers 45 wins.
First of all, MVP has always been about team record, not being about stats. Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 PPG in 1962 and didn’t win MVP. Jordan averaged 37 PPG in 1987 and didn’t win MVP. Harden averaged 36 PPG in 2019 and didn’t win MVP. Scoring title is not the MVP. So what’s different about Kobe? Also, as debunked in #2, Kobe’s team was actually better than people give credit for, especially the presence of Lamar Odom.
Secondly, Kobe was 4th place in MVP voting in 2006 while Lebron was 2nd. If anything, Nash robbed Lebron of MVP, not Kobe. How can you be robbed when you’re in 4th place?
And the whole ‘media/NBA hated Kobe’ thing is just another conspiracy theory.
Kobe actually got a lot of freebies in his career. In 1998, he was an All-Star Starter even though he came off the bench and averaged 15 PPG. Has another bench player ever started an all star game before?
As explained in #4, the media actually gave Kobe All-Def 1st team selections even though many of them were arguably undeserved. So how the media hate Kobe?
The NBA, which the fans like to blame David Stern for ruining the CP3 trade for, actually gave Shaq, Kobe and Lakers a free championship essentially in 2002 in their series against the Kings, particularly in Game 6.
And for the CP3 trade, it’s highly unlikely that Kobe would have won anything more with CP3 because they would have traded Gasol for him, who was the perfect complement to Kobe’s style of play, and Kobe’s style of play has never been proven to win with another ball dominant perimeter star. Kobe has always won with traditional post playing big men. It’s unclear whether or not he would have meshed well with another perimeter star who would be taking the ball away from him. This is another Kobe fan fantasy who like to dream of Kobe winning a few more rings, but that’s just not the reality. For evidence that Kobe can’t win with a perimeter star player, first he couldn’t play with Eddie Jones and he had to be traded since they played the same position, Gary Payton and Steve Nash despite what Kobe fans say about their age, were both all stars the year before they joined the Lakers. After they joined the Lakers suddenly their production decreased measurably. Is that just a coincidence? And Jeremy Lin was doing pretty well in Houston but not in LA. Also just a coincidence his production went down too?
Myth #6: More NBA players think that Kobe is better than Lebron
Kobe fans use this argument to back them up saying how ‘NBA players know more than you do’ and ‘more NBA players think Kobe is better’.
Firstly, do all NBA players know what they are talking about? How many times you watch TNT or ESPN or another talk show, and Charles Barkley, or Shaq, or Kendrick Perkins, or Paul Pierce, or Richard Jefferson, or JJ Reddick comes on the show and says something that you disagree with? They were NBA players. That means they should know more right? But often it’s the analysts like Chris Broussard or Nick Wright or Max Kellerman that were not NBA players but I find myself agreeing with more.
Secondly, it’s not true that more NBA players think Kobe is better.
A 2019 poll had Lebron ahead of Kobe by a few percentage points. And this was before Lebron won his 4th ring and Finals MVP. And they might link to some old Larry Bird or Michael Jordan quote that said they would pick Kobe but these are all outdated quotes from years ago, so it’s no longer valid.
Myth #7: Lebron plays in a ‘soft’ era
The hand-checking rule changes that led to the ‘soft’ era occurred in 2005.
That means Kobe played 11 of his 20 years post hand checking rule changes.
Yes Lebron played more of his career post hand checking rule changes, but that doesn’t change the fact that their careers overlapped by 13 years and they mostly played in the same era.
Myth #8: Lebron had the worst Finals of all time in 2011 while Kobe has never let his team down
A large part of the Lebron hate comes from his performance in the 2011 Finals. Because it’s easily the performance where he is the most criticized for, even Lebron fans would admit that he performed below expectations in that Finals.
But let’s look at what the actual numbers say.
First, the claim is that Jason Terry and JJ Barea outplayed Lebron. Did they really though?
Jason Terry: 18 PPG / 2 RPG / 3 APG / 49% FG%
JJ Barea: 9 PPG / 2 RPG / 3 APG / 38% FG%
Lebron James: 18 PPG / 7 RPG / 7 APG / 48% FG%
So when people say ‘outplayed’ they mean outscored him by 0.2 PPG and more efficient by 1%? This is a weak definition of ‘outplayed’ because it can be made for a lot of all time great players. I could make the argument that Andrew Toney outplayed Magic Johnson in the 1983 Finals. Or how Rip Hamilton outplayed Kobe in the 2004 Finals. Also, Jason Terry despite being on the bench, played more minutes than the starting SG Deshawn Stevenson did, so the whole ‘he was a bench player’ thing doesn’t mean much when he played starter minutes.
And JJ Barea didn’t have better stats in any category. The Barea argument is based on a few defensive possessions (no more than 6-7) where he switched on Lebron, and this could happen in any series where for a few possessions a role player might outplay a superstar. For example, here’s a stretch where Muggsey Bogues guarded Jordan really well: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m3Ab7UzetA
And of course when Matthew Delladova guarded Curry really well: www.youtube.com/watch?v=buIpDNzuyLg and this was for more than just a few possessions too.
For Kobe, he’s had numerous performances where he was at least as disappointing as Lebron was in 2011:
2000 Finals – Kobe averaged 15 PPG the entire series including only 8 points in Game 5. Yes Kobe got injured in Game 2 and everyone talks about his clutch play in Game 4 when Shaq fouled out, but that doesn’t excuse that he underperformed in all the other games in the series. If he was recovered by Game 4, why the drop in performance in Game 5? And shooting 37% for the series is not excusable due to injury. If you know you can’t shoot well, then don’t shoot the ball! Jalen Rose outscored Kobe by a whopping 8 PPG and 10% better FG% this series. Is that being outplayed?
2004 Finals – this Finals is just as bad as Lebron’s 2011 Finals if not worse because the 2004 Pistons were even more of an underdog than the 2011 Mavs were. At least the 2011 Mavs won 57 games in the West, swept the Lakers and beat the OKC Big 3 in 5 games. They were on a roll that playoffs. Dirk was exiting his prime but still in it. The 2004 Pistons on the other hand, had no Hall of Famers until this year, only 1 one all star that year (Ben Wallace), won only 54 games in the weaker East conference and barely made it past the Nets in that playoffs. The 2004 Lakers were even more favored than the 2011 Heat were. Phil Jackson is a Hall of Fame coach, and Shaq and Kobe were both in their prime and both healthy. And inexplicably they lost in 5 games to the Pistons (the Heat lost in 6 to the Mavs). Only in retrospect do we see the Pistons as a great team, but at the time no one expected them to win.
Kobe’s performance in the Finals was the main factor. While the Pistons defense was all time great, Shaq was still hitting 60% of his shots in the paint, despite Ben Wallace guarding him. Kobe on the other hand, was shooting only 38% with Tayshaun Prince guarding him. His all time worst Finals performance may be in Game 3 when he had 11 points on 31% shooting. Kobe’s desire to be the main guy and unwillingness to pass to Shaq was a huge factor in them losing the series. After the series, Phil Jackson outed Kobe in his book ‘The Last Season’ and called him uncoachable.
2006 First Round Game 7 – this is the game where Kobe stopped shooting in the second half to spite Phil Jackson and show him that his team sucked. If Lebron ever did this, it would be brought up endlessly ad infinitum by his haters.
2008 Finals Game 4 – Kobe’s 17 points on 31% shooting is a huge factor in the Lakers losing this game.
2010 Finals Game 7 – Kobe shoots 25% in this game, and yes while he did grab 15 rebounds in the game, if it wasn’t for Pau Gasol’s staggering 18 rebounds in this game, the Lakers would have lost for sure because the game was only decided by 4 points.
2011 Second Round – Kobe averages only 22 PPG, 3 RPG, and 3 APG this series. Jason Terry averages 20 PPG, 2 RPG and 4 APG this series and had a whopping 59% FG% compared to Kobe’s 46% FG% this series. If Terry outplayed Lebron by being 1% more efficient, well he’s 13% more efficient than Kobe here. And was playing the same position as well, unlike against Lebron. And for a player as ‘unstoppable’ as Kobe is claimed to be, if all it takes is a Tayshaun Prince, or Tony Allen, or 38 year old Jason Kidd to get him to perform below average, well how unstoppable really is he?
Myth #9: Lebron dropped the ball to meet Kobe in the 2009 Finals
This seems to be the chance that the media keeps promoting as the matchup between Kobe and Lebron, and it gives the haters a chance to say that Lebron dropped the ball by choking against Dwight Howard’s Magic.
Which isn’t true. Not only did Lebron not choke against Dwight’s Magic, but he had arguably one of the best series of his career.
First of all, Lebron’s 66 win Cavs were built for the regular season. Not all high win teams were built for the playoffs – ask the 2015 Hawks, 2016 Spurs or 2011 Bulls. Secondly, 40+ of those wins were from Lebron alone – when Lebron left the Cavs, they went from 61 wins in 2010 to 19 wins in 2011 with minimal roster changes. That’s a huge reason why Lebron wasn’t able to get far in the playoffs with that kind of supporting cast.
Lebron in the 2009 series vs the Magic, actually averaged a mind boggling 38.5 PPG, 8 RPG, 8 APG on 49% shooting.
And he even had a buzzer beater against them in Game 2.
So no, Lebron did not choke against the Magic. He performed very well. Losing is not always choking. That’s why nobody says Michael Jordan choked against the Celtics when he got swept despite putting up an NBA record 63 points against them in the playoffs. You can perform well, but if your team isn’t good enough, you can still lose.
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!
Myth #10: Kobe is a better leader than Lebron and his style of play ‘wins’ more
This one is possibly the most untrue of them all. Lebron has never ever blamed any teammates, no matter how badly they performed. Kobe on the other hand, has infamously cursed out his teammates and trashed talked them in various interviews. However, because of his deity status after his tragic death, very few players will openly talk negatively about Kobe these days. Only Jeremy Lin has notably opened up about it.
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 both Dwight and Rondo’s career have a resurgence with Lebron. You could make a case that the entire reason why Dwight was overlooked for the better part of a decade was because of Kobe’s remarks that he was ‘soft’. And of course, his decision to publicly feud with Shaq led to Shaq’s departure, his decision to be hard headed led to Phil Jackson’s departure and led to Kobe’s situation described in #1 and #2.
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 Melo to Westbrook 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. People have short memories but no one wanted to come back and play with him at that time.
Another common myth cited about Lebron is his ‘GM’ powers where he uses it to trade bad teammates and build his own superteam. This is utterly false as Lebron has played with guys like Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, Eric Snow, Daniel Gibson, Ronald Murray at the beginning of his career, and of course, cannot trade any teammates because he isn’t part of the front office! However, he does have a heavy say on the team and the front office tries to build around him, but this is true of any superstar. He’s won over 40+ players their first ring, and secured long term contracts for guys like Anderson Varajeo, Tristan Thompson and Timothy Mozgov. He took on aging journeyman players that nobody wanted like Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo and won them a championship. Ray Allen was on his last legs when he played in Miami and all people remember about him is that one shot in Game 6 in 2013 and count him as part of the superteam. He forgave JR Smith for his blunders and welcomed him back to the Lakers to win him yet another ring. He extended Zydrunas Ilgauskas career by 6 years when he was about to retire and Big Z followed him to Miami. And of course what would guys like Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and Chris Bosh be without Lebron? Both Love and Kyrie missed the playoffs before joining Lebron and Bosh only made the playoffs twice and both times lost in the first round.
Meanwhile, Kobe was unable to win with a Dwight Howard that was still leading the league in rebounding, and constantly threatened to trade his teammates (as Jeremy Lin noted in his tell all story). So who’s the player that makes his teammates better and who’s the one who is getting them traded?
Also the myth about Lebron taking PEDs is obviously another cuckoo conspiracy theory by Lebron haters – they think that the league loves him so only allows him to take it, which is in complete violation of the league’s strict drug testing policy since the 1980s. So after Lebron retires what are they gonna do? People gonna start accusing Giannis about taking PEDs after that because he looks too big and athletic to be ‘natural’? Lebron was known to be a genetic freak from day one. It’s just more haters looking for ways to discredit Lebron. I’m surprised no one accused Wilt of taking PEDs, there’s another guy who was relatively slender early in his career and then bulked up massively later in his career, guess that must be PEDs right?
Also, saying that his style of playing hero ball or ‘mamba mentality’ wins more is clearly false. The players that fans like to cite as winning this way are Jordan and Kobe. Those are the only players who have won playing ‘hero ball’. But there’s a reason why – they both played (and won) under Phil Jackson, who utilized the triangle offense to force Jordan and Kobe to share the ball more. When they didn’t play under Phil, they didn’t win. Also for Kobe, his style of play needed a big down low to help with rebounding, either Shaq or a combination of Gasol/Odom/Bynum, otherwise his style of chucking the ball wouldn’t win anything. That’s also why the potential CP3 trade would have flopped, is because they would be giving away their best rebounder Pau Gasol for a 6’0 guard.
Basketball was envisioned to be a team game, that’s why hero ball never works. Iverson, Tmac, Melo, Westbrook, Dantley, Dominique, Harden etc there’s a long list of players that while talented 1v1, never won because they played too much hero ball. Wilt Chamberlain never won until he was forced to play team ball under his coaches Alex Hannum and Bill Sharman. Rick Barry also became more of a team player over time and won more when he did. Bill Russell, Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Lebron James, Steph Curry, etc were all players who played within the team concept and trusting their teammates, which is why the team style of play has won way more than the ‘hero ball’ style of play.
The reason why some fans believe that Kobe’s style of play wins more than Lebrons is because they only look at Finals records, which is a completely casual way of seeing things. Every championship has a lot of factors – strength of the teammates, the strength of the opponents, refereeing, injuries, etc and for people who only look at Finals records to determine which player won more, it’s also implicitly saying that it’s better not to make the playoffs than to go to the Finals, because if you go to the Finals, there’s always a chance you could lose and add to that Finals record stain. So might as well just miss the playoffs and guarantee that you won’t stain your Finals record right? See, that’s the very naïve way casual fans look at this, and a good way to tell if someone has never played competitive sports. Obviously you want to get as far as you can, even if there’s a chance of losing.
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’.
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. Or even when you bring those moments up, they always have excuse ready.
2000 Finals – injured
2004 Finals – off court drama, Pistons defense too good
2005 – injured
2006-2007 – team sucked
2008 – injured
2011 – injured
2012 – teammates declined
2013-2016 – injured
So half of Kobe’s career he was injured.. and he’s a candidate for the GOAT convo? Wow.
Did you know that Lebron averaged a 30pt triple double in the 2017 Finals? Did you know that Lebron shot 59% from the field in the 2020 Finals including one game where he scored 40pts on an absurd 71% shooting in Game 5? These are all for an entire championship series too, the biggest games in an NBA player’s career. But no one ever brings up these performances, apparently none of them compare to Kobe’s 81pts in the regular season against a bad defensive team and outscoring the entire Mavs team in 3 quarters… in the regular season. Or the time Kobe sank 2 free throws on a torn achilles… in the regular season. Or the time Matt Barnes shook a ball at Kobe’s face and he didn’t blink. Wow. Amazing. Or the ultimate ball hogging moment, when he took 50 shots and scored 60 points with Utah playing 0 defense on him in his last game. Fantastic.
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.
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 in head to head matchups. In those match ups, Lebron averages 28.4 PPG to Kobe’s 24.6 PPG, Lebron shoots better with 46.8% FG% to Kobe’s 41.8% FG%, Lebron averages 7.3 APG to Kobe’s 5.4 APG, Lebron averages 7.5 RPG to Kobe’s 7.5 RPG. In every category head to head, Lebron beats out Kobe.
^ Lebron not only shuts down Kobe in his prime while Lebron was still young, but also hits the jumper over him for the win.
I hope I busted all these myths. Because Kobe’s fans are so numerous and a large portion of them are casual fans, they always find some way to distort the truth when talking about him and the same is true of Lebron haters as well, as there are a lot of them, and they tend to be casual fans as well. Let me know what you guys think.