Wherever you go these days, top ten lists are a part of American culture. Turn on the television and tune into the travel channel, you’ll find the top ten vacation destinations. Food Network will give you the best places to eat; news outlets discuss the greatest president. Entertainment outlets such as Rotten Tomatoes have the greatest movies, and ESPN once gave us the 100 greatest athletes of all time.
Of course, these are experts in their designated fields. They have vast knowledge and access to researchers and sources to help aid in their assessments.
However, this does not stop the average person from taking to the internet to express their disagreement with said sources, claiming to have the same knowledge in the categories they are debating.
One such debate has the Los Angeles Laker fanbase divided “LeBron James versus Kobe Bryant.”
James is perhaps the most polarizing basketball player ever; his name sparks more hatred from traditional fans than anyone in recent memory. Traditional fans are diehard individuals that root for the same team their entire lives. Loyalty is everything to them.
James leaving Cleveland for Miami to win championships had the state of Ohio burning his jersey and vowing to never root for him again. The hate for his decision became loud, but, his solid fanbase overshadowed the “haters’ with loyalty and perhaps arrogance. After four years and two championships, King James returned home with open arms, to a rejoicing Cleveland.
He still had the detractors that said he chased rings. Comments that indicated he didn’t earn them like the greats of the past. He wasn’t loyal; he is a sellout. After returning, LeBron James gave everything he had to the Cavaliers. He willed the team to four straight finals appearances and one championship. A trade demand by Kyrie Irving ended any long-term success. LeBron played one more season in Cleveland after Kyrie was traded to Boston. He led the Cavs to the finals only to be swept by the Golden State Warriors.
There was nothing more he could do. The franchise was not able to bring in another player to help compete for more championships. He decided to leave and sign a 4-year deal with the Lakers.
Although not a championship contender, the Lakers proved their franchise to be worth the investment in their rebuilding process; whereas the Cavaliers were handcuffed by a roster of aging veterans and contracts that prevented them from being able to bring support in the form of a talented max deal player.
Lebron James’ fans followed him to Los Angeles as new Laker fans, which does not sit well in the eyes of lifetime Laker loyalists? They were sure to welcome LeBron; who wouldn’t? His fans were not seen in the same regard. They are labeled bandwagoners.
LeBron James fans claim he is the greatest player in Lakers history, so, the debate began.
No one in their storied history is perhaps more beloved than Kobe Bryant. He stayed with the same franchise his entire twenty-year career. Arguably, he is the last of a dying breed in the age of free agency.
His loyalty to the organization and five championships; earned him a silhouette in the rafters with two retired numbers and the discussion of the all-time greatest player.
Kobe was a polarizing player by all standards. However, the Michael Jordan comparison; a sexual assault accusation in 2003 that would have probably sent other players into obscurity.
Perhaps social media not being as dominate and the accuser’s unwillingness to testify saved him.
In today’s social media era, the court of public opinion is seemingly more damning than the eyes of the law.
Some still bring it up, believing he was guilty due to the out of court settlement. Arguably no player in sports history has bounced back from allegations of that magnitude. He switched his jersey number from 8 to 24 three years later to start over and escape the Shaquille O’Neal shadow.
He would go on to win two championships wearing the number 24, cementing his legacy as an all-time great.
From this point, we will dig into the head to head matchups for those who consider that as a measuring stick.
LeBron lead teams are 16-6 verses Kobes Lakers. All regular-season matchups with 0 postseason appearances against each other.
Lebron averaged 28.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.9 steals, and .07 blocks; per game.
Kobe averaged 24.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.1 steals, and .02 blocks; per game.
Their career numbers are amongst the best to ever play.
Totals and All-Time Rank Regular Season Only.
33, 643 points (3) 6,306; Assists (31); 7,047 Rebounds (105); 1,944 Steals (15);
640 Blocks (190); 4,010 Turnovers (4)
32,543 points (4); 8,662 Assists (10); 8,880 Rebounds (54); 1,937 Steals (16);
921 Blocks (110); 4,163 Turnovers (3)
Kobe Bryant won 5 championships with a 5-2 record. LeBron James has won 3 championships, posting a 3-6 record so far.
Their first game was in 2004; at that time, Kobe was an 8-year veteran and 3-time Champion. Lebron James was a rookie.
Kobe would win his last title in 2010. The Cavs won the series 8-5 before LeBron left to join the Miami Heat in 2011. Since that point, LeBron led Heat and Cavs teams would dominate the series 8-1.
Should you look at the roster of talent on each team, the results are a bit misleading. LeBron was entering the prime of his career while Kobe was aging.
The new Lebron devoted Laker fans will use these statistics to validate their argument as LeBron being the better Laker.
True Laker fans will say that it is irrelevant to his legacy as a Laker because he has never led the team to a championship. They will root for him as they have for any player that has worn the purple and gold. Who wouldn’t?
However, they say until LeBron wins multiple championships as a Laker, he has no business in the discussion.
With that window closing each year as LeBron is entering his 17th season. It’s hard to imagine he will ever be in the same discussion as Kobe regarding Laker folklore. LeBron is a great player. He is the greatest player of his generation. The same can be said for Kobe Bryant. However, LeBron James, the greatest Laker of all time is exaggerated; that honor belongs to Kobe Bryant