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Kobe Bryant Closer To Surpassing Michael Jordan Than LeBron James

It has been amusing and a little confusing listening to all the recent chatter about LeBron James one day, possibly, maybe eclipsing the legendary Michael Jordan as the game’s all-time best player. With the 2012-13 season beginning tonight, seems the appropriate time to lend a little perspective.

This notion is funny because only in the last three seasons or so has James really established himself as the top player in the game, confirming it with a magnificent last season during which he earned every conceivable accolade, but above all a championship.

But it is a single title, one, which makes such lofty prospecting of James confusing when he has not even bypassed Kobe Bryant.

To this point in his brilliant career, James trails Bryant in game and accomplishment, so how is it that he is the next best thing to Jordan?

This is not to minimize the remarkable skill set James has displayed. He, indeed, has played better than anyone in the world in the past two seasons, improving his game exponentially each summer. But before he can pass Jordan he has to pass Bryant, and he has not.

Just three years ago, all the talk was how Bryant was the game’s best player. At the same time, many pundits wondered aloud if he would be Jordan’s equal if he matched him with six championships. So, here’s the confusing part: If observers were prepared to begin the debate about Bryant’s place in relation to Jordan only after he won six rings, why now are they giving James so much love after just one title?

Not only that, but many of the same high-profile people leading the discussion of James passing Jordan — Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Phil Jackson — are the same people who ridiculed James for bolting Cleveland to team with superstar Dwyane Wade and all-star Chris Bosh. Remember that?

James had a season for the ages — league MVP, NBA championship, NBA Finals MVP and Olympic gold medal. But that one season does not push him pass Bryant’s five NBA championships. How can it? Why is the criteria for James’s place in history different from Bryant’s, especially when Bryant has been a remarkable player in every facet of the game, including winning?

From a pure basketball standpoint, what areas are James better than Bryant has been? A ballhandler? Edge to Bryant? Defender? James has gotten better as Bryant has gotten older. Mid-range shooter? Bryant. Free-throw shooter? Bryant. Three-point shooter: Bryant. Passer? James is magnificent at ball distribution. As a rebounder? James uses his massive size to earn the advantage. As a leader? Bryant, over the course of his career, has been at the forefront of his teams’ successes. As a clutch player? Bryant. Until the second half of last season, James was reluctant to even shoot in the biggest moments. And when he did, he often missed.

As a winner? Bryant has five championships, James one. That criteria cannot be underplayed. In a very real way, James has to surpass Magic Johnson before he can catch up to Kobe Bryant before any serious discussion can begin about surpassing Michael Jordan.

In fact, the talk about Bryant’s proximity to Jordan should have resumed when the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Dwight Howard in the summer. They have a legitimate chance to reign atop the league in mid-June. And if Bryant puts together another outstanding season in leading the Lakers to the title and wins the Finals MVP, that would give him a half-dozen titles, like Jordan. What’s the conversation then?

If you are starting an NBA team today, only the blinded-by-loyalty Bryant supporters would take him now over James. Three and especially four years ago, Bryant would have been the choice. Admittedly, James’ last season was so dynamic that he rose above the fallout of how he left Cleveland to land to a loaded squad. He was that good.

Still, James has a longer road to get to Jordan than Bryant, with five titles, an unquestioned body of work and a game that is aesthetically pleasing as any we have seen. Bryant is style and substance.

The truth is that LeBron James, by the time he is done, could be as good or “better” than Jordan. But that’s almost like saying the same thing about Kevin Durant. The only real, concrete debate about someone knocking Jordan off his throne (or sharing it) would have to be about Kobe Bryant, not LeBron James.

Let James win three more titles and then the talk should begin. Until then, he’s just an unbelievable, a once-in-a-generation player trying to be the next Kobe Bryant.


What people are saying

18 thoughts on “Kobe Bryant Closer To Surpassing Michael Jordan Than LeBron James

  1. Of course he is..he's been in the league a lot longer ._.

  2. Jason Noel says:

    Shut up Kobe lover, Bryant played more seasons than Jordan, came into the league at a much younger age than Jordan, and Jordan retired for a year and a half, and STILL, Bryant has less points than him all time and less championships…stop

  3. Drew Oswell says:

    Kobe in his prime was not as dominant as LeBron is now. Kobe had the full game, but LeBron has that fullness except with a 6-8slight 260 lb frame to do it on. Kobe has stared that he is thinking about retirement in two years. LeBron has at least 7 more years, allowing home the opportunity to win more.

  4. Drew Oswell says:

    Kobe in his prime was not as dominant as LeBron is now. Kobe had the full game, but LeBron has that fullness except with a 6-8slight 260 lb frame to do it on. Kobe has stared that he is thinking about retirement in two years. LeBron has at least 7 more years, allowing home the opportunity to win more.

  5. Kevin Cokely says:

    None of them don t have the mental capacity of Jordan; the of the NBA back thn was more competitive, Jordan won three triple crowns, championships etc. Lebron and Kobe are spoiled "they playing college ball now". League has changed. Theres no comparison s.

  6. Rob Davis says:

    This is a racist publication. What kind of an uproar would there be if it were called "White Star"? I have a lot of black friends but most of you blacks are as racist as any.

  7. Kobe is better then lebron and I would be surprised if he ends up withmore titles as kobe I have to see it first kobe is the closes thing to michel jordan if anyone more skillsbetter foot work as well a better shooter then lebron will ever be just food for thought ……

  8. Harold Ford says:

    Jordan was a trailblazer and league transformation agent. The NBA rode on the shoulders of Jordan and this comparison shouldn't even be posed. Nonetheless, if we're using titles as thhe metric then Bill Russell is the best ever. Spoken from a diehard Miami Heat fan. Go HEAT!!!

  9. Yancy Morgan says:

    Kobe is his own man and legend and definitely don't have to step out of Jordans shadow cause he will leave his on remarkable legacy , Lebron talk is so laughable cause with one half a season ring his not even past Wade let alone Dunkin . And he had to jump on Wades jock just to get that one …so lame . Jordan was a trendsetter but you have to respect the Mamba or your you sound like a crackhead…Smfh.

  10. Jonathan Williams says:

    Sure I can see Kobe's greatness and he's had an amazing career. No one can take that from him. I do take issue with your comparison "from a pure basketball standpoint," Lebron played point guard his rookie season…he's a better ball handler without question. Also he's a better defender, passer and rebounder…stats back those up…no need to refute those. Sure Bryant's a much better free-throw shooter. Lets leave the other stuff alone (clutchness, leadership, whateva).

    The article started good…but got stupid real fast.

  11. Doug Heinz says:

    Neither of those guys have seen a turn-around three hit the bottom of the net like we're capable of…

  12. Jonathan Williams says:

    Those guys aren't ready for North Bedford Indiana farm gym turnaround three-point action!

  13. Curtis Bunn says:

    Jonathan, stupid? How is it stupid? You act like LeBron is head and shoulders above Bryant. He's not. Not even close. Also, how you gonna dismiss clutchness, leadership? Those are KEY elements to an all-time great, especially performing in key moments. It would be stupid to dismiss those elements of the game.

  14. Lionel Ahoua says:

    you guys are all funny to dare compare those guys to jordan. It's never going to work.

    Jordan is in a class his own, he is at the very top in all the criteria: average stats, awards and accolades, records, skills, legendary playoffs performances, didn't have the most talented team, played in the best era(both 80's and 90's) and dominated like no one did before or after.

    Lebron has a long way to go to reach kobe.

    He is more dominant than kobe was in his prime because he has less competitions. Kobe played in a better era with more great teams and more dominant players like iverson, shaq, garnett, duncan, jason kidd, gary payton, amare stoudamire, tracy mcgrady, vince carter, dwayne wade, lebron james, gilbert arenas, jermaine o'neal, paul pierce, chris webber, etc.

    The exploits of the best players have to be measured in playoffs(highest level) and kobe has more legendary games than lebron. He proved himself more than lebron.

    Lebron can pass kobe but he has to prove himself a lot more, it's not because he did some legendary games in playoffs against the pacers or old celtics that he passed kobe yet.

  15. Lionel Ahoua says:

    the metric is about overall accomplishment of a player,the title is the most difficult accomplishment but everything has to be taken into account.

    russel played in the less competitive era with only 8 teams and he was far from being a great offensive players.

    In terms of overall accomplishement, jordan is untouchable and I agree with you,it shouldn't even be discussed.

  16. The reason LeBron is being discussed in this vein is because he still has the ability, with an uncertain and likely bright future ahead of him. Kobe, while great, is unlikely to add much more to his resume, an as it stands, it is below the level of Jordan's. LeBron has a lot of work to go to get in that conversation, but the possibility is greater with more time left on the clock, so to speak.

  17. Philip Mario says:

    kobe missed a wide open layup, after committing two ghastly turnovers….to the most pathetic team I think ive ever seen in my life, the now phoenix suns who cant catch the ball, rebound, or even set a proper screen. he needs all stars brought in each year to even compete. to even posit him next to MJ is a mockery of a sham in its own right, let alone uttering the words and publishing them here for eternity. kobe is a corny, narcissistic egomaniac who rats his teammates out for their indiscretions cus he wasnt boss enough to keep his own business quiet. jordans shoes still outsell kobes years out of the league…because bryant is unoriginal – a cheap carbon copy of the g.o.a.t.

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