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Monday, August 18th, 2008 at 1:30 pm  |  102 responses

Let’s Not Dance on Kobe’s Grave Just Yet

Calling LeBron the best is, well…wrong!

by Marcel Mutoni

My man Alex Boeder penned a terrific piece for us today. It was well-written, concise, and made its overarching point intelligently.

It was also, irrevocably wrong.

For the past week or so, LeBron James and his Team USA mates have beat up on a bunch of helpless foreigners whose names you can barely pronounce. They’re dunking, rebounding, and defending all the way to an all-but-assured Gold medal, and a return to glory for USA Basketball. James has been tremendous during the tournament; Kobe Bryant has not.

Though he played well in the most meaningful contest thus far (the Revenge Game against the Greeks), Bryant has otherwise struggled. Kobe has at times forced things offensively, he’s occasionally been over-eager on the defensive end, and has generally failed to adapt himself to FIBA play. LBJ and a reborn Dwyane Wade have been this team’s stars. Bryant has quite simply not risen to the occasion.

This does not make LeBron James the best basketball player in the world.

The Olympics are not a reflection of hoops being played at the highest level. They’re a welcome distraction every four years, a chance for the tv networks to make a killing in advertising dollars, for countries to push their political and ideological agendas through the smokescreen of athletic competition, and the basketball is, at best, passably watchable.

Yes, Team USA is no longer the immovable force it once was, but if they take this thing seriously (and they certainly have of late), then they should have no problem waltzing to the gold medal each and every time.

European teams play together for years, developing beautiful teamwork and camaraderie along the way, and most of their players have the added advantage of playing with FIBA rules year-round. And yet, it remains truly shocking whenever a hastily-assembled group of American ballplayers (thrown into a completely foreign playing environment) loses against these guys.

In other words, shining on the international stage – though admirable – doesn’t really prove a whole lot for NBA players.

And I hate to do this, because the comparison has been beaten into the ground so much, but it bears noting: On the famed ’92 Dream Team, though his image was plastered everywhere and he was treated like a rock star (sound familiar?), the best player was not MJ. It was Charles Barkley.

(My memory’s not too good, but I don’t recall anyone claiming the Round Mound to be the world’s best at anything but gambling after Barcelona.)

The Cleveland Cavaliers won three games against the eventual champs in last season’s NBA Playoffs (as did Joe Johnson’s Hawks). The Hawks, Cavs, and Pistons all pushed a Celtics team that, after playing dominant ball all season long, didn’t really hit its Playoff stride until Game Four of the NBA Finals.

This does not make LeBron James the best basketball player in the world. If anything, it means that Doc Rivers somehow managed not to screw it all up.

In a League chock-full of stunning physical specimens, it is LeBron James whom the Gods smiled upon and blessed with their most prodigious gifts. An absurd blend of power, speed, grace, and preternatural instinct. He has all of the tools to become the greatest player to ever dribble a Spalding.

He will eventually break most of the scoring records (and you can pretty much check off any single one that starts with “youngest player to … “); he should win a bunch of championships by the time it’s all said and done; and if he doesn’t rack up at least a couple of MVP’s by the time he’s 30, a full-scale investigation should be launched.

The reality is that though he’s clearly the game’s future, so far, LBJ has appeared in the Finals only once, where his team was swept; he has played his entire career in the weaker conference; and his defense continues to leave a lot to be desired. All things that can be fixed.

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, LeBron James will be the best basketball player in the world.

After playing brilliantly in three Playoff rounds (not to mention, the entire regular season), Bryant almost inexplicably crapped the bed in the Finals, and the Lakers only managed to eke out two victories against Boston before getting blown off the floor in Game Six. It was a humiliating performance individually and team-wise, one that understandably raised questions about his place among the game’s greats.

Kobe Bryant is turning 30 years old this month. He has appeared in the NBA Finals five times (winning three titles), he is considered to be one of the greatest natural scorers of all time, he has been named to the League’s all-defensive team eight times, he has an MVP to his name (though it’s agreed by just about everyone that this is one of the great injustices in all of sport), and health permitting (I don’t need to mention his name, do I?) Bryant and the Lakers remain the favorites to win it all next season.

In what was arguably the most intensely competitive conference in League history last season, a young and largely inexperienced Laker team emerged as top dog. Their leader was rightfully (and finally) crowned MVP. He is in the middle of his prime; impossibly, he has even more to prove now than ever before.

Kobe Bryant remains the game’s greatest offensive force, one of its better defenders, and is still the most feared competitor working today.

That makes him the best basketball player in the world.

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  • http://spaceshipjay/myspace.com Spaceship Jay

    Does Alex Boeder watch any basketball OTHER than the Olympics?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    I guess I don’t need to turn anything in now. Thanks Marcel.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I’m more amazed at how Mutoni typed all this up while putting up about 5 seperate posts in-between. Oh, and nice work.

  • Marcel Mutoni

    i recently hired an assistant, tad. he’s a chimp, but he gets the job done and i don’t provide him with medical. win win!

  • http://nba.com bbfan

    mr. mutoni get ready for the hate mails.

  • http://nba.com bbfan

    loved this piece.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com H to the Izzo

    It’s worth noting that Bryant has been decidedly lacklustre in the last two basketball competitions he has competed in(granted one of which is not over).

  • http://dyalekt.com d.Y.

    Anybody remember those low budget horror flicks called “I will dance on your grave”? Some woman would get beaten, or sexually assaulted, left for dead, and then go on a killing spree. Is that what Kobe is going to do Mutoni? Or is he just going to slowly decline and then retire on top of a pile of money?

  • http://sdfjkl.com Jukai

    Is it wrong for me to think Kobe is more skilled, but Lebron is more all-around valuble?

  • http://sdfjkl.com Jukai

    Also, someone needs to now write an article on why Shaq is only the fifth best center of all-time. Ryan, I choose you!

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Mutoni’s Spot!

  • Marcel Mutoni

    yes. more to the point, jukai, i’d say lebron has more raw talent and ability than bryant; he just needs to put it all together and play some real defense (and no, strictly playing the passing lanes and pinning point guards’ layups on fastbreaks doesn’t count.)

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Defense is all about having the desire to play it, which LeBron has not fully grasped yet. If he played D with the same passion that he drives to the basket, look out.

  • http://sdfjkl.com Jukai

    Mutoni, that actually wasn’t what I was getting at. Kobe is a greater force in basketball: he can score anywhere, perform multiple functions, he can do everything that really can alter a game (make a key steal, hit a key shot, etc.). So, if one game was at stake, I would choose Kobe over everyone else. If it all came down to one game, Kobe all the way. However, I think Lebron is more complete: Lebron can dictate the entire tempo of a game, but also score as much as anyone else in the league. He isn’t as good of a one-on-one defender as Kobe, but his pressure defense and play in the passing lanes make him a better TEAM defender. He’ll gather more rebounds for second chance points, get the team more involved, etc… so I think I’d rather have Lebron for a season. You can’t just control the game with your dominance every freaking game (Unless your Jordan or Wilt). You have to be able to control the tempo, get others involved, and kick it up a notch when you need to. And I give that to Lebron.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com DP

    thank you marcel. and good night to all mohtaf*ckin haters. LeBron will be better than Kobe in TIME. keyword: time.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com DP

    LeBron is more freakishly atheletic and built for destruction but Kobe is just a sly dog and can score at any time on the floor. Yes, he has laid an egg in these olympics so far and LeBron is the man with the plan but I don’t base who is better off of a few weeks of ballin against sub par comp.

  • B. Long

    Thank you Marcel.

  • akimana

    I really don’t get how people can focus on Kobe’s play in the last 3 games of the finals, and forget what he did against the defending chamos. Not to mention the Nuggets and Jazz. And for Alex to call the Lakers favorites is absurd. The Celts had trouble in earlier rounds but they were clearly the best team in basketball all season. Anyways nice piece Mutoni.

  • John E. Sanford

    LeBron will be better than Kobe in TIME. keyword: time. The time will be 2008-2009 season. Not a Kobe hater, but LBJ is on the verge of something silly next season.

  • B. Long

    I’m praying for that Cleveland VS. L.A. series right now. So is David $tern.

  • scott

    LeBron hasn’t even reached his full potential yet. Remember James is only 23 and Bryant will be 30 this year. Once he starts treating every game like the playoffs on both ends of the court this won’t even be a discussion.

  • scott

    No disrespect towards Kobe but he is getting old.

  • B. Long

    All this Lebron is the greatest hype will drop like Enron stock once he heads to Greece in 2010.

  • B. Long

    Cash, Money, Euro, Euro, Bill Yall!

  • Jazz Man

    I hate to say it, but dewayne wade is the best as far as production on the olympic squad, but Kobe is still the best player overall point, blank and period. Yes Kobe is missing shots, but who isn’t on the squad besides dewayne!!!! We as a team have not shot well from behind the arc, but I must say this mornings game was a great improvement because we finally made those shots! If Lebron gets a consistant jump shot and some defense (outside of the passing lanes) he will be close to Kobe, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Just like Carmelo Anthony would be better if he played defense (He is more of a threat than Lebron because he can shoot). Don’t start with the complaints…Lebron is a scorer (without killer instinct) and Kobe is a beast (All Around)

  • http://birdmonster.blogspot.com tenorca

    akimina: It’s easy to say that in hindsight. Most people I know (myself included) had the Lakers winning the chip.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    “Don’t start with the complaints…Lebron is a scorer (without killer instinct) and Kobe is a beast (All Around)”
    HUH?!?!

  • http://myspace.com Bryan

    Kobe is a complete as a basketball player. Lebron is scratching the surface of what he could be. Kobe is completely developed..when Lebron is finished developing he will stand as a better basketball player, but right now Kobe is the best. I think the nature of his game (taking over offensively, imposing his own will on the game) doesn’t fit in an international all star squad type setting.

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Allenp

    I think Lebron has become Kobe’s equal on defense. I know that may sound stupid to some folk, but I always felt Kobe was overrated on defense. Making the all-defense team doesn’t impress me that much. Jason Kidd made that team this past season. Kobe is the more skilled player. He’s better than Lebron at almost every basketball skill. Yet, Lebron is a better passer, and he’s just more unstoppable. I firmly believe that if Lebron and Kobe has changed places last year, Lebron would have beaten the Celtics. Lebron causes more problems for teams. He creates more mistmatches. Kobe is more skilled, Lebron is just more dangerous. I think Lebron is better and he will prove it this season barring an injury.

  • B. Long

    @Allenp:What about Kobes injury? Does it count?

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Allenp

    Oh God, I’ve agreed with Jukai again. I suggest all of you stock up on canned goods.

  • akimana

    On the real though, I agree with Allenp. They switch places and Lebron does better. I’m not sure how much better the Lakers would be with Lebron, but the Cavs would definitely be much worse with Kobe.

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Allenp

    The injury is a fair point. But, I’m not docking Kobe for struggling in the Olympics. I thought it was very close between he and Lebron last year. I thought Kobe was better because he has more skills. Then, in the Finals, I watched Kobe and I wasn’t impressed. When I saw Lebron lose to the CEltics in seven I saw Lebron take his game to a new level when things got tight and his team needed him. I didn’t see that from Kobe. Granted, that could have been the injury, but I don’t know. All I know is that I feel Lebron can, and does, reach a level that Kobe cannot get too. As a complete player and teammate, Lebron brings more to the table in my opinion. He’s not more skilled but something about him is just better.

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Allenp

    It’s like me arguing with Jukai about why Iverson and Dirk should never be mentioned in the same sentence. Screw the stats and skills, if you’ve watched both of them play the game it’s not even close.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Earl “E.Sneed” Sneed

    This is like Jay-Z versus Nas!

  • blackjack

    “In what was arguably the most intensely competitive conference in League history last season, a young and largely inexperienced Laker team emerged as top dog.”
    You may not know this, but the Celtics won the NBA Championship by beating the Lakers in the Finals, therefore the Celtics are considered top dog. I’m not trying to say Paul Pierce is the best player in the world or anything, I just have to point out that incredibly false statement.

  • Marcel Mutoni

    you’re right, blackjack. i’d totally forgotten that boston had the best record in the western conference last season. thanks for the reminder, dude!

  • Boss24

    Kobe is a amazing player but without Pal Gasol they wouldn’t have made the finals, but on the other hand LeBron got his team 2 the finals by himself. But at the end of each of these amazing players careers LeBron will have the better stats and income mayb not the rings but the points and $$. Like in boxing Ali said he was the greatest but in the end Foreman got the better deal. So its kinda like Kobe = Ali, LeBron= Foreman lol but they r all great players

  • akimana

    blackjack your answer is in your quote. The man said ‘the intensely competitive western conference.’ So the Lakers’ top dog status is within that conference. With their #1 seed and them representing the West in the finals I think that statement is more than true.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I heart sarcasm.

  • akimana

    Oh mutoni handled his own.

  • B. Long

    blackjack just got banned from the casino!

  • Jackie Moon

    I thought Dwyane Wade was the best?

  • B. Long

    No Jackie, you forgot about Paul Pierce.

  • B. Long

    And Bassy.

  • WhaHuh

    I feel sorry for Alex, the ether was really flowing in that comments section

  • http://myspace.com/bodiebarnett jbn74sb

    Thank you Myles.

  • floe

    kobe never single handedly took any team to anywhere nor has he ever won anything for himself.

  • B. Long

    @floe:He got a trophy in the summer that says other wise. Just wasn’t the one he wanted most. That’s next year.

  • http://sdfjkl.com Jukai

    Christ… Kobe is NOT all-around better than Lebron. What the hell is wrong with the posters today?

  • B. Long

    He’s just better at helping his team win.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I’m just waiting for Marcel to tell me when it will be ok to dance on KB’s grave. I’m patiently waiting.

  • http://www.nba.com/celtics/ Moose

    @ Jukai: so true. kobe isnt winning more mvps after this year, bron is just gonna flat out be better than him.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    What a group of idiots. Marcel, I love you to death, but if you feel so strongly about your man’s place in the game, you don’t need to be lumped in the company of 5 yr olds and respond tit for tat and beat up on another writers work, which is what you did, regardless of the hollow compliment in the beginning of your piece. If your dude was so fantastic, we wouldn’t be debating this ’cause the Lakers would be wearing their own Shaqless crown this season and Kobe would be terrorizing the so-called lackluster competiton of the Olympic games. When your good it doesn’t have to be spoken. No one was writing Jordan rebuttals from 87 to 98 at who might have been challenging his title. Get your minds right foolish worshipers, your dude is not on a pedastal by himself anymore. That 6′ 8″ 260 lb manchild made a spot for himself whether you like it or accept it. It’s fun to have a true competiton of the games best. It’s a Kobe/Lebron race right now, in a couple of seasons, it won’t be that any longer.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com DP aka D.Polo

    Stop the MJ sh*t. no more comparisions. Kobe/Lebron race is what we are talking about. Jordan is not close in this discussion.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    And anyway, who said Kobe is dead? If he is perceived as the games second greatest player by a percentage of the basketball viewing population, how is Kobe buried? If he is a close #2 in some peoples eyes are all the Laker/Kobe fans that insecure of it? Please…..this sh*t is so tired. Kobe could have shut cats up for a long while if he showed out in June. He got roped and now the criers are still tearing up. Dude ain’t retiring, he’s still playing the game. Show us Kobe, show us you can perform on the games greatest stage and be better than all in front of you. No excuses. Just Do It, like your sponsor says. Shut us ALL up, please. The stupidity is deafening.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Bodie, Mutoni wrote this, not me. I know we all look alike, but c’mon.

  • Marcel Mutoni

    jesus cries each time eboy leaves an emotional comment.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    With laughter.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Facts are facts, haters. :)

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    And if you are trying to put yourselves on a pedestal, you look even sillier. Just saying.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    And your lack of a pertinent response from either of you, just shows where your heads are at. I’m glad I back that fake cripple down here. I can read your snide remarks all day and remember a dude in a wheelchair busted up from a hurt shoulder is my hero. :)

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Sigh.

  • B. Long

    @E: Is that because LeBron will be playing against lesser competition in Greece?

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    I wish Myles wasn’t so bored with life. He could disolve himself from this place and not have to be bothered by OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS. Oh yeah, that shouldn’t be allowed. It’s a voting year.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    No B, but that’s actually the wittiest thing I’ve read coming from your fingers today. Nice work.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Double sigh. Did you forget to take your meds today? For someone who called everyone in here an idiot or a hater, it wouldnt seem that you are too tolerant of dissenting opinions yourself. This is a trite conversation by your own admission, and one that Ive already said my piece on in the previous post. Why should I contribute any further?

  • Jose

    look i hate kobe. but as much as i hate him he is the best(I guess)but barely in the end it’ll be kobe,lebron or wade who’ll end up the best not right now but in a few years

  • http://myspace.com/bodiebarnett jbn74sb

    Myles, Mutoni, whatever. The sentiment is the same – thank you. As for eBoy – get a life.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    I love you too sweetie.

  • B. Long

    @Myles:This isn’t the Amaechi post. Sorry, couldn’t resist ignorance.

  • ciolkstar

    Man, I miss one day I here…But on the reals, I completely agree with Eboy and Jukai. Lebron is physically superior to Kobe at any age but Kobe has sorta lost 1/2 a step (which is normal), and his game is now too jumper reliant to be as “dominant” as Bron. I can’t completely bash Kobe though, he’s still right there. But once Bron gets a ring the debate will be over.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com H to the Izzo

    I’m laughing from a pedestal right now.Dance minions,dance.

  • tinchek

    (My memory’s not too good, but I don’t recall anyone claiming the Round Mound to be the world’s best at anything but gambling after Barcelona.)

    A+ marcel^^

  • Brad

    great post as usual Marcel.

  • B. Long

    One ring trumphs three. Great math ciolkstar. Oh Yeah, the Spurs resigned Finley. Your excited, I can te11. 8)

  • Boing Dynasty

    Guess what dummies there is no best. There both great, there both different players. Somtimes Lebron will be better, somtimes Kobe will be better. Any one Heard of gray area? If you personally like one better than the other, cool, but your intense fondness for that individual dosnt make that player any better(out side of your head). My word, its seems like half you freaks pull it to posters of these dudes. *Obligatory no homo*

  • jay

    tell em` Marcel. & E, to answer your question, if Lakers/Kobe fans are insecure about his place, i would say Yes & No.

  • ciolkstar

    Here’s some math: Kobe – Shaq = 0 rings
    The questional is still BEST not most accomplished. Personally I think Bron’s already clearly there. But you have to respect winning.
    I’m definitely NOT happy about keeping Finley, I’m preparing myself to root for the Rockets.

  • David

    I’m curious: what do you think would happen if they were to switch teams? Kobe’s Cavs with the same supporting cast, and LeBron’s Lakers complete with living legend Phil Jackson. Which team does better? Which player individually performs better?
    In a separate question: people are always talking about Kobe vs LeBron as individual talents and about their individual achievements. To what degree should other things affect the argument about who is better? Like – which is the better team mate? Who is more coachable? Who is steadily improving?

  • B. Long

    Get a seat on the bandwagon while there is still room, ciolkstar.

  • Yunki

    Although I agree Kobe is the best player in the world. Your logic is blind and arrogant. The exact same attitude which has lead to USA’s demise in international basketball in recent times.

    We have to remember, The Dream Team was a collection of the NBA’s greatest. The Redeem team is arguably a collection of the greatest.

    The 2004 and 2006 USA teams were definitely not.

    It has always taken the greatest to win at the Olympics. USA lost in 04 and 06 because of a lack of respect for other countries.

    The Olympics is the biggest international event in the world. You win here as undenying proof that you are the world’s greatest.

    Not the NBA ‘World’ Championship.

  • http://www.ballerblogger.com Brandon Hoffman

    Agreed. Thanks Mutoni.

  • chintao

    Don’t stop the music; I’m still dancing. When I watch LBJ and Kobe play, there is a striking difference in the spirits with which they play. Bronny seems to really enjoy just being on the court. He wants to win, because that’s the point. KB, on the other hand, seems to want to prove something about himself. He’s arrogant, but that arrogance derives from his insecurity. This insecurity manifests in selfish play that can undermine his team when he’s not “on” (see NBA Finals, 2008 Olympics).

  • http://slamonline.com bbfan

    well if kobe & lebron switched teams this is what would happen: lebron & the lakers would make the playoffs and lose in the finals (cause u can’t win a championship playing 1 on 5 or 3 on 5). kobe & the cavs would make the playoffs cause if those cavs players don’t make an effort he’ll call them out.

  • KA

    youre both wrong. sebastian telfair is the best basketball player in the world. he tell me.

  • tealish

    Kobe, sadly, is still the greatest player in the game today. And he should retain that title next season, but who really knows? 09/10 could be LeBron’s time. But so could 08/09.
    However, as of now:
    Kobe is the man I want taking the last shot in any game.
    Kobe is still the man I want for an entire season.
    Hell, even in these Olympics – with Kobe being the 5th most effective player at best – if the gold medal was on the line and the Nats are down 1, are you guys really going to tell me you don’t want the ball in Kobe’s hands?
    I sure would, and that’s what makes him the best – even if I hate the guy.

  • tealish

    Besides, let’s wait until Bron can hit some damn free throws before anointing him the best in the game.

  • andrew

    a couple of reasons why kobe is the best…
    -81 points vs Toronto who still are a playoff team in the East
    -62 vs Dallas in 3qtrs who were in the finals not too long ago
    - 8 time all defense selection
    - MVP with 4 fingers on one hand

    Lebron has yet to do any of these things.. that said time is on his side and by 28 hed be the best in the league (id also say hed have cheated on his baby momma by then too). You can’t take these olympics as an argument as bron being the best kobe still only has 4 fingers and im sure coach k has told him to take a backseat in all of this. Go Lakers and Cmon Aussies!

  • matt the jazz fan

    nowdays everybody wanna talk like they got something to say…

  • Andrew

    Both Kobe and LeBron are excellent at the basketball sports.

  • http://karanmadhok.blogspot.com karan

    if the team usa form is the judge for this whole ‘best player in the world’ argument, than i don’t think how anyone can doubt that its D-Wade right now.
    but these 5 games are NOT the judge, and so I agree with marcel and fear the mamba

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    My work day would not be as enjoyable without these comments. I heart all of you.

  • Edmond

    @matt: but nothing comes out when they move their lips, just a bunch-a-gibberish..

  • overtime

    Kobe is better,very smart article, though i don’t agree with the comments about the olympics, just because they are four years doesn’t make it a weaker brand of basketball

  • Robb

    Lebron scored more points, had more rebounds, and dropped more assists per game than Kobe did last year. And they had the same number of steals per game. Surrounded by significantly worst teammates, he managed to be just a little more effective than Kobe in all facets of play. I watch Kobe play regularly, and his defense is simply one of the most overrated aspects of his game. The argument that Lebron doesn’t completely “get it” on defense quite yet is fair. However, you must concede that on an average possession, Kobe is saving himself on defense so that he can display his almighty offensive skills on the other end. If you had the first pick in a draft with a pool made up of all the current NBA players, to construct a team for only next season (so yes, a single season), you’d be ignoring your eyes and statistical evidence if you took Kobe over Lebron. Lebron is the better player, now, period. To say anything but (especially because Kobe’s team fianlly broke through…on the addition of significant talent upgrades around him) is to reveal supreme ignorance. Plus, this article’s arguments are all faulty. Based on last season alone, saying that Lebron is better is more than reasonable. The MJ and Charles Barkley comparison is a non sequitor. Also, I remember when, a year after the 92 Olympics, a nation of sportswriters voted the Round Mound the League’s MVP. So once again, not a great point and one that was at the best hasty and at the worst ignorant. Also, Kobe’s wins in the Finals came while he was playing with the most dominant center the modern NBA has ever seen. When it was his turn to do it by himself, his team was brutally pushed aside in six games. I’ll listen to a Kobe is better argument when it’s made coherently, with real and valid points.

  • http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/ David Friedman

    I agree with the general thrust of Marcel’s article and I made a similar point in a 20 Second Timeout post, namely that performances in FIBA play do not tell us who is the best player in the NBA. However, I disagree with Marcel’s brutal assessment of Kobe’s play in the NBA Finals. Here are two stat lines to consider (this is taken from my answer to a question in ETB’s Scribes of the NBA series):

    “One player averaged 43.0 mpg, 25.7 ppg, 5.0 apg, 4.7 rpg, 2.67 spg and 3.83 tpg. He shot .405 from the field, .321 from three point range and .796 from the free throw line.

    The other player averaged 38.8 mpg, 21.8 ppg, 6.3 apg, 4.5 rpg, 1.17 spg and 3.67 tpg. He shot .432 from the field, .393 from three point range and .830 from the free throw line.

    Without analyzing matchups and examining other contextual factors, which of these players had the better series statistically? The first player scored more, got slightly more rebounds and had a lot more steals. The second player shot somewhat better from the field–particularly on three pointers–and the free throw line. Turnovers were a wash. Of course, the second player’s team won the series and Paul Pierce was rightly selected as the Finals MVP; the first player in this example is Kobe Bryant.

    The reason that I bring up these numbers is that I don’t think that most people really bothered to take the time to look at them. There is a perception that Kobe played terribly and that Pierce reached a new level.”

    Considering that Kobe was being guarded by a team that Wade and T-Mac (among others) said is the best defensive unit they have ever seen, while Pierce did most of his damage versus Luke Walton, Kobe has received some unfair criticism vis a vis the Finals. Kobe did not put up the stratospheric numbers that he did in the Western Conference playoffs (31.9 ppg on .509 field goal shooting, in case anyone forgot) but Kobe did better individually against Boston than LeBron did (26.7 ppg, .355 from the field, .231 from three point range, 5.3 turnovers per game). LeBron shot worse than Kobe versus Boston and averaged more turnovers. Everyone looks at Cleveland lasting seven games while L.A. lost in six but the difference there is that Cleveland is much better defensively than L.A. LeBron’s great game seven performance has made some people forget that during the first four games of the series he set various records for lowest field goal percentage.

    @ Robb: The coherent, real and valid reason that Kobe is (slightly) better than LeBron right now is that Kobe has a more complete skill set. Kobe’s game has no weaknesses, whereas LeBron has a balky outside shot and he is unreliable from the free throw line. Players, coaches, GMs and scouts recognize the completeness of Kobe’s skill set, while fans get caught up in highlight reels and numbers, neither of which tell the complete story.

    Finally, as for LeBron passing Kobe next year or in two years: of course, LeBron will pass Kobe eventually because LeBron is several years younger. The only reason to make the comparison is to address who is better right now. As Marcel said, Kobe still holds the crown of best NBA player.

  • B. Long

    David Friedman is smart.

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  • Justin

    Kobe wins this one for now. Friedman’s right, you guys mention Kobe’s failings against the Celtics but forget that LeBron was setting records for worst playoff shooting performances.

    Check the stats. Kobe’s playoff averages were great this year at 30/6/6 on 48% shooting. He is the only player EVER to record at least 30pts, 6rebs, 6ast in 6 straight playoffs games. Not MJ, not LeBron, not Oscar, nor Larry.

  • John

    Weak analysis – first of all you demonstrate your lemming mentality when you say things like “European teams play together for years”. They don’t. They have a influx of new talent (Rubio) and recruited talent (Kaman, Holden) just like the US, their players spend most of the year playing in different leagues like the NBA, and not all players play every year with injuries and other reasons. Furthermore, why focus only on European teams, only 50% of the teams left are actually European.

    Then you conclude this “Kobe Bryant remains the game’s greatest offensive force, one of its better defenders, and is still the most feared competitor working today. That makes him the best basketball player in the world.”

    Wade has shown that he is equal if not better than Kobe on the offensive end, and the world doesn’t fear the US, what makes you think they fear a bean? And what kind of logic is this: Best offensive player + Most feared = Best player in the world. Good Riddance.

  • Bruno

    thanks. a good article after all. alex whoever is just lame and well, Lebron CAN be the best in the league, CAN.
    but thats only gonna happen after kobe is gone and he proves a lot of things. i can’t take a player that the opponent just give him open shots cause he can’t make it as the greatest, not even at YMCA…
    can’t see a called “point-forward” that throws bricks from the FT line like a center.
    not even mentioning defense here.
    and kobe didn’t need to score a single point to lead this team. he is the leader. not playing the greatest ball, but clearly the leader.

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