Links: Kobe vs. LeBron?

by March 04, 2008

by Lang Whitaker

A word of advice to any of you out there who find yourself on an early morning JetBlue flight, fighting off sleep while the ESPN “family” of networks plays in your headphones: This could cause air rage. Earlier today I was on a flight and figured I should try to watch “SportsCenter,” since I hadn’t watched it in about a week. I tuned in and was immediately confronted by a segment in which we, the viewers, would be told who was the better NBA player, LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. The anchor introduced the segment and the cameras cut to…

ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian! For real, TK was talking about Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. No, no, seriously, this was on “SportsCenter,” a baseball expert talking about the NBA. (I’m not sure if this says more about ESPN’s love for Kurkjian or their disdain for their 341 NBA analysts.) Anyway, Kurkjian said that he likes LeBron but he likes Kobe more, for two reasons: he’s a better defensive player and, get this, he’s a better jump shooter. Now, Kobe is a better jump shooter, but why should that be the deciding factor in choosing the MVP? Isn’t that like me saying I’d take Barry Zito over Jake Peavy for last year’s Cy Young Award because Zito has a better curve ball?

Kurkjian went on to add that Michael Jordan could guard “everyone on the other team whenever he wanted.” Not just anyone, but “everyone,” which must have been amazing to see — Michael Jordan guarding five guys all at the same time. And while I do recall MJ being a great defender, I do not recall him ever guarding opposing centers. But then, I’m not a baseball analyst.

At this point I switched the channel and came across ESPN 2, where two men named Mike were discussing the NCAA Tournament and a bet that might require one of the two to wear a cheerleader outfit.

So I turned to VH1 Classic.

There’s video of Kurkjian (and Anthony Munoz!) weighing in on this topic here, and it seems to be a common talking point this week all over the internets. I’m not sure what the rest of ESPN’s analysts have to say about this — has anyone heard from Barry Melrose on this? — but isn’t it obvious to pretty much everyone that right now Kobe is just a little better than LeBron?

That’s not taking anything at all away from LeBron. If I was starting a franchise right now and had the choice between Kobe and LeBron, I’d take LeBron in a second, because he’s younger and has many more miles left on him than Kobe. But if I had to take one of those guys to play in a game tonight, I’d take Kobe in a second. And I think Kobe’s the better one-on-one defender, even though LeBron and Kobe each average 2 steals per game and LeBron averages more blocks per game and more defensive rebounds per game.

Just like Anthony Munoz.

• You guys might recall that Ben and I have a running bet going about whether or not Bucks rookie Yi Jianlian will average 25 minutes a game this season. Ben doesn’t think he will. I think he will because the Bucks had to make a promise that he’d average at least 25 minutes a game to get him to leave China.

Checking in on his stats…through 58 games, he’s averaging 25:23 minutes a night. Hang in there, Yi!

• The Celtics are getting Sam Cassell, which is great way to assure that the Big 3 sees their shots opportunities drop. But what’s great is the double-speak Linkstigator Doc Rivers is using to explain all of this. First he says…

“This is Rajon’s team. That’s not going to change. He’s the point guard of this team. He’s going to remain the point guard of this team. We just want to have backup.”

Great, right? So Rondo plays the majority of the minutes, but Cassell comes in for short bursts toward the end of the first and third quarters to let Rondo rest. Then, in the very next paragraph, Rivers says…

“(Cassell) gives us another guy that’s been there and makes big shots – and is willing to take big shots.”

But when do guys take big shots? In the fourth quarter with the game on the line, right? So does that mean Rondo won’t be in the game when it matters?

• Listen to “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” while you read this.

• This Hawks/Heat replay is turning into the dumbest thing of all time. Now the NBA has announced that Shawn Marion and Mike Bibby will be allowed to play, even though they weren’t on the teams when the original mess happened. The Hawks should also sign Dominique Wilkins to a 10-day the day before the game and throw him out there, too.

• I wonder if they’ll threaten to sue me if I point out George Karl looks like John Lithgow? Because he totally does, you know?