Kobe Bryant is one of the best players to ever play in the NBA. Drafted out of high school by the Charlotte Hornets but immediately traded to the Lakers, he had an instant impact on both his team and the entire NBA. He was a high flying, high scoring, intelligent player who never gives up. Although his last couple of seasons were hindered by injuries, he was still one of the top vote getters for the All-Star game, as well as a top fantasy pick in any league. He scored an amazing 60 points in his final game in the league, going out an even bigger legend than he already was.
LeBron James isn’t much different than Kobe. LeBron is a bigger, stronger, version of Kobe, but we wouldn’t say he’s as good. Talented? Most definitely. One of the best players in the league today? Without a doubt. As good as Kobe ever was? Not a chance! Here’s why:
6. Less Help
Kobe Bryant has played in the NBA with less help than LeBron James has had during his career. LeBron didn’t have much help, if any at all, at the very beginning of his career. But that was expected considering the Cavs won the NBA Draft Lottery and had finished in the basement of the league. Kobe has played with guys like Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol, and Shaquille O’Neal. While Shaq was one of the all-time great NBA big men, Kobe often had to carry the entire Lakers team by himself.
On the other hand, LeBron has played with guys like Ray Allen, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Anderson Varejao, Mario Chalmers, Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier, Shaquille O’Neal, and Antawn Jamison. Those are much more helpful pieces. The Cavaliers and Miami Heat did everything they could to surround LeBron with some of the best players. Kobe didn’t get nearly as much help there. The Lakers never had a ‘Big Three’ like LeBron, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love.
When you look at Kobe, you see loyalty. During the best and worst of times, Kobe never turned his back on the Lakers. He went through some amazingly high times, and some pretty low times. Near the end of Kobe’s playing days, the Lakers were in a slump, near the bottom of the extremely competitive Western Conference.
LeBron on the other hand left the Cavaliers at their peak (or just as they started their decline, depending on your stance). He decided to join the Miami Heat and formed an instant contender with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The then-reigning MVP left his team to join a former MVP in Dwyane Wade?
We get why he did it. He wanted to win championships. But why leave your home town team? He should have brought Wade and Bosh to Cleveland instead. Although LeBron rejoined the Cavaliers in 2014, he never should have left to begin with. No matter what he achieves in Cleveland, that’s an asterisk in his legacy.
What really sets a great player apart from the rest is the number of championships they have won. Michael Jordan, considered the greatest player to ever play the game, won six and was named Finals MVP all six times. He set the standard. Kobe and the Lakers have won five NBA Championships, and he has appeared in seven total Finals, while winning two MVPs.
LeBron James has now appeared in seven Finals as well, but has only won three of them, for an overall losing Finals record. Unless LeBron can win another two or three Championships, he won’t ever be on the same level as Kobe, or even close to MJ.
3 Court Vision
Now don’t get this confused with just seeing the court. By court vision, we mean the ability to create their own opportunities. LeBron is bigger and stronger, he loves to drive to the rim and draw the foul. Few players will attempt to even take the charge when LeBron is at full speed. He’s gotten better at shooting as well, but he doesn’t create an opportunity for himself the way Kobe does.
With Kobe, you never know what you’re going to get. He had an arsenal of attacks that he can use at any given moment. LeBron has his size that he uses to dominate, but Kobe could pull up for a jumper over two defenders, a corner three, a fade away, or even drive the lane for the dunk or layup. LeBron bullies his way to the basket, and can pull up for the jumper or a fade away, but his strength and size are his dominant strategy. Kobe used his skill instead.
2. Clutch Shooting
Some of the greatest all-time players were great shooters. But not just great shooters, great clutch shooters. Kobe is one of those great clutch shooters. When the game is on the line and you’re looking for the game winning shot at the buzzer, there weren’t too many better options than Kobe Bean Bryant. He was one of the best clutch shooters for over a decade in the NBA.
LeBron may be getting better at it, but there was a long time where he was criticized for missing those key shots or passing to a teammate when the game was on the line. In those critical spots, we would much rather have Kobe taking the final shot over LeBron, even if Kobe was taking a deep three over defenders. In this aspect, it’s more fair to compare Kobe and Jordan and leave LeBron out of the conversation.
1. Practice Makes Perfect
It’s been said that practice makes perfect. Although it may be technically possible to hit every field goal attempt, every free throw, and every three point attempt, the chances of it happening are slim-to-none. Practice hard, play harder. That’s Kobe’s mentality. It’s the only way he knew how to practice and play.
Now let’s not get confused here, no one is saying LeBron doesn’t practice hard or play hard. But Kobe practiced and played harder that pretty much everyone in the league. Stories of him getting up at 5:00 AM to hit the gym or staying hours after practice (or even a game) has ended to work on his jump shot are legendary. He had a no nonsense mentality, even in practice. He would push you as hard in practice as he would in a game, turning him into one of the best players in league history.