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The Great Debate: Kobe v. LeBron

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The excellent TrueHoop blog on ESPN.com assembled eight bloggers to discuss the ultimate debate among NBA fans: who is the best basketball player on the planet?  It's a question that basketball fans have been arguing about the last couple years as LeBron has continued to elevate his game and has reached the bestest-of-the-best level previously occupied only by Kobe.  The writers awarded Kobe his first (surprisingly) MVP last year and followed that up by giving LeBron his first this year.  Everyone is anticipating a Cavs-Lakers Finals this June that will hopefully settle the debate (for this year at least), although with the trouble the Lakers are having eliminating the Yao-less Rockets many are wondering if they'll even reach the Finals.

One of the bloggers participating in that debate is John Krolik of Cavs:the Blog, another great source of Cavs analysis.  The TrueHoop piece only published part of his writings so he put his entire argument on his blog, posted here.  It's definately a good read, and he puts to rest many of the Kobe myths (like Kobe is the one you want taking the last-second shot because he's more of a "clutch" player than LeBron).  As he says, pretty much every stat you look at will favor Leron so you have to come up with other arguments to support Kobe.  Of course, Kobe has three rings to LeBron's zero, but that is mainly a function Kobe having played many more years than LeBron has (not to mention the fact that Kobe played his early years with Shaq while LeBron came to a Cavs team with no talent around him).

The fact is that they're both fantastic players, undoubtedly the two best players in the league right now, with different games.  Two or three years ago Kobe was definately the better player, but as LeBron has worked on improving his defense and jump shotting his game has met and probably passed Kobe's.  The reason this debate is such a hot topic is because of their differences as players; which one you rank higher depends on what skills you value in a basetball player.  Even LeBron fans will probably admit that Kobe is the more aesthetically pleasing player; his moves are so pretty and his jump shot so perfect.  LeBron is more of a bruising physical speciman, but his game also has beauty in the mental aspects of it.  LeBron sees the floor like no player since possibly Magic Johnson and he's been an elite passer since he stepped on the floor his rookie year.  Kobe struggles to involve his teammates at times while LeBron always looks for them first.  This is probably why many fans don't view LeBron as the "assassin" Kobe is, because he doesn't usually look to take over games with his scoring (though of course he can when necessary). 

Most NBA fans enjoy and appreciate both players, but the debate has also brought a good amount of "hate" on both sides from avid Kobe and LeBron fans.  Some Kobe fans find it necessary to constantly criticize LeBron, and vice versa, but personally I don't think that hatred is necessary.  They're both great players and worthy of our admiration.  As a Cavs fan, I respect Kobe and appreciate his greatness and don't feel it's necessary to tear him down in order to build up LeBron.  LeBron's merits speak for themselves.  The Lakers are a great team and I hope they do make the Finals so we can see Kobe v. LeBron on the biggest stage.  If LeBron wins his first ring against Kobe's Lakers that should be the final nail in the coffin of anyone still claiming Kobe is the superior player.