When discussing the fact that LeBron James is far and away the best player on the planet, it seems that too many ignorant Laker fans try to argue that Kobe Bryant is at least on LeBron’s level, if not better. However, when asked to explain their reasoning, the only answer the Laker fans can come up with is that Kobe has won 5 championships. So lets take a look at the flaws in this argument.
Kobe Bryant was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft. Now had Kobe done the honorable thing, the respectful thing, he would have shown gratitude to the Hornets for showing faith in his abilities, and worked his butt off to help the franchise turn things around, and possibly make a decent playoff run. But no, Kobe showed all the seedy characteristics of a spineless snake, and demanded he be traded to the title contending Lakers, where he could play under the best coach in the history of the game, Phil Jackson.
So the petulant little child got his way, betrayed the faith in which the Hornets had instilled in their draft pick, and headed West. Kobe saw little playing time in his first two seasons under Phil Jackson, although he managed to make his way into the Lakers starting lineup for their title run in 2000.
Playing alongside the leagues MVP Shaquille O’Neal, and veteran superstars Glen Rice and Ron Harper, Kobe’s number were very poor shooting a dismal 35% during his first finals series against the Indiana Pacers. He managed to average a sub-par 15 points per game, only slightly higher than Rice and Harper, despite the fact that Bryant took twice as many shots as the two of them combined. Luckily for Kobe, Shaq – the Lakers undisputed superstar – carried him on his shoulders, leading the Lakers to the championship with 38 points and 17 rebounds per game.
The 2001 finals series against the Philadelphia 76ers was the same old story – Kobe played Robin to Shaq’s Batman – riding the big mans coat-tails to a second consecutive title. Shaq lead all players with his 33 points and 16 rebounds per game.
A year later, the Lakers were confronted by a daunting task – how to overcome the Sacramento Kings. After being out-worked, out-hustled and out-played by their California neighbours, the Lakers found themselves in an unfamiliar situation, trailing 3 games to 2 in their Western conference Finals showdown. This time, not only did Kobe rely on Shaq to get the job done, he acquired the services of NBA commissioner David Stern, who together with the referees in charge, orchestrated one of the most disgusting displays of match-fixing in sporting history. In what is now commonly referred to as the ‘NBA’s biggest tragedy’, commissioner Stern ordered the referees in charge to “send the series to game 7, no matter what”. The commissioner was worried that the possibility of a Kings v Nets finals series would be terrible for TV ratings, and was determined to have at least one marketable franchise playing for the title in June…that marketable franchise he chose was the Lakers. Just YouTube the highlights from this game to see for yourself. Former NBA referee and convicted match-fixer Tim Donaghy was the scapegoat that the NBA used in order to sweep the scandal under the carpet – Donaghy went to prison, the Lakers won the title…that’s sweet old American diplomacy for you!
Despite the fact that the Lakers should not have even been playing in the 2002 finals, Shaq did what Shaq always does, and lead the Lakers to a 4-0 sweep over the New Jersey Nets. His 37 points and 13 rebounds earned him his 3rd straight Finals MVP award. By betraying the Hornets all those years earlier, Kobe was able to sit back and bask in Shaq’s glory.
After a very successful stint with the Lakers, Shaq decided it was time to move on – he had done everything possible for that franchise, single-handedly leading them to 3 straight titles, reminiscent of Michael Jordan’s impact with the Bulls back in the 90’s. In his first season without the big man, Kobe lead the Lakers to a shocking 34-48 record – quite embarrassing for a team who had just won 3 championships – but hey, I guess thats what happens when a team loses its Batman. A team of Robin’s simply cant compete.
So the evidence is clear – Kobe’s contribution to the Lakers championships is far from great – he played 2nd fiddle, just like Scottie Pippen played 2nd fiddle to Jordan all those years earlier. Without the influence of Shaq, the Lakers would have been a mid-table team struggling to reach the playoffs – and Kobe would have been ringless.
The difference between Kobe and LeBron is not the number of rings, but the options they chose to take. Kobe chose the easy way out, the spineless way – betraying the team that gave him a chance, simply to become a role player on a championship team. LeBron chose the hard road, the honorable road taken by some of the greatest to ever play the game including Jordan and Larry Bird. They were drafted by struggling teams, who put their faith in these young stars to turn turn their franchise around – Jordan did it for the Bulls, Bird did it for the Celtics, and LeBron did it for the Cavs.
LeBron could have followed Kobe’s path – he could have stabbed the Cavaliers in the back, and demanded a trade to a title contender such as the Detroit Pistons, to be coached by one of the greats – Larry Brown. But instead, he showed he had a back-bone. He showed he is a man of integrity, a man you can trust and a man you can respect – he stuck with the Cavs and agreed to play under little known coach Paul Silas.
One can only imagine how many Championship rings LeBron would have, had he taken the ‘Kobe’ approach. Playing alongside Rip Hamilton, Chauncy Billups, Rasheed and Ben Wallace, coached by Larry Brown – The King would in all likelihood have won 5 straight in his first 5 years, easily surpassing anything Kobe was ever capable of.
LeBron’s stats speak for themselves – he annihilates Kobe in scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks and steals – shoots a much better field goal % and a higher 3-point % – he is runner up defensive player of the year and 2x MVP – the only argument any Kobe fan can muster up is the rings, but hey, we have just disproven that argument too!