Who’s the best baller on the planet right now?
Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.
This debate was seemingly raging highest during the course of the 2008-2009 NBA regular season.
A highly-anticipated 2009 NBA Finals showdown of the sport’s two biggest heavyweights might have provided a little insight, but Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic spoiled the suspense by knocking out King James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
On the September issue of Pro Basketball magazine, the Cavs phenom and Los Angeles Lakers superstar are pictured side-by-side with the huge headline “LeBron vs. Kobe. Who’s better?” underneath them.
Inside the hoops publication, writers Michael Murphy and Eddie Sefko articulately editorialize who they think is the superior ballplayer in the game today.
Murphy chose LeBron. Sefko picked Kobe.
However, at this juncture in both superheroes’ respective careers, is there really a debate?
Kobe, 31, is entering his 14th season. LeBron, 24, is set for his 7th year.
Sure, LeBron’s currently putting up sick, mind-boggling numbers. He averaged 28.4 points, 7.2 assists and 7.6 rebounds a game in ‘09. But at this stage in his NBA career, Kobe could care less about statistics and accolades.
Kobe shines four NBA championship rings, while LeBron sports zero and has only one NBA Finals appearance.
According to former Lakers general manager and NBA legend Jerry West, LeBron has the potential to be the greatest ever to play the game.
“Even though it’s hard for me to be objective, because I brought Kobe to Los Angeles, I do think LeBron has surpassed Kobe as a player,” West said last season about LeBron who captured the 2009 MVP award.
But my question to West is, what weaknesses has he seen within Kobe's game lately for him to get surpassed by LeBron?
LeBron led his squad to a 66-16 mark last season. But, Kobe’s Lakers went 65-17.
In watching Kobe, he hasn’t slowed a bit to me. As crazy as it sounds, his overall game seems to be improving.
In 2008, Kobe hoisted his first NBA MVP trophy and in 2009 he finally got that monkey off his back by winning his first NBA championship without former sidekick Shaquille O’Neal.
It seemed West based his opinion on the future potential and the physical makeup of LeBron rather than the now factor and unheard of mental toughness of Kobe.
"He's just too big, too strong, too quick. And he has incredible body control,” West added about LeBron who's 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds.
Well, what about winning championships, staying power in the league and mastering the mental approach of the game a la Kobe?
While good rap for sports talk radio stations and sports sections of newspapers to compare two unbelievable athletes, this hyped debate over the past few seasons of who’s better between Kobe and LeBron is an open-and-shut case to me.
Not as earthshaking but much more pragmatic debates for this upcoming NBA season should instead be: King James vs. Superman (Dwight Howard) or even Kobe Bryant vs. NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
As remarkable a basketball player LeBron is right now, he just hasn't elevated to Kobe’s status yet.