As a casual NBA fan, you are probably looking at the title of this piece and are either thinking: a) this guy is crazy, LeBron James is the best player in the NBA, b) this guy is just another bias Lakers fan or c) this guy does not know anything about basketball. Well, just like every other truth in the world, there are facts to back up my sentiment that Kobe Bryant is still the best player in the NBA, today.
In terms of popularity, Kobe Bryant has more Facebook fans than LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. LeBron James boasts the title of “best-selling jersey” over Bryant and Wade. According to Bleacher Report’s Hadarii Jones, internationally, Kobe Bryant is the most popular athlete in the NBA. While these are nothing more than interesting tidbits, the other facts are a lot more telling.
Most NBA fans agree that LeBron James or, as of right now, Dwyane Wade, is the best player in the NBA. Both Wade and James are very talented players, however, Wade is the only one that can make a case at being the best player in the NBA when compared to Bryant.
Kobe Bryant is still the most complete player in the game, today. Bryant is an unstoppable force offensively, whether it is from mid range or beyond the three-point arc. He is also well-revered for his defense where he has been named to the NBA All-Defensive team nine times. Kobe also posseses what many sports analysts like to call “the clutch gene” or “killer instinct.” According to Henry Abbott of ESPN.com, Bryant is considered to be the most clutch player in the NBA. The general consensus is that when the game is on the line, Kobe Bryant would be preffered to take the last shot before LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.
The beautiful thing about sports is that there is always a debate. Everyone loves to argue who is better, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade? In the Bryant-James argument, the key point that fans make, according to NZSportsLife, is that LeBron has done more statistically then Kobe. However, Kobe fans and other casual fans in general, like to point out Kobe’s championships and ability to close out games better as their main point according to RealGM.com.
While LeBron might have the edge statistically, Bryant has the edge legacy wise. The biggest number that stands out of course is Kobe’s five championship rings to LeBron’s zero. The lack of championships continues to be LeBron’s main criticism and recently, his inability to close out games in the clutch. LeBron has also recieved a lot of backlash when he chose to join the aforementioned Dwyane Wade and fellow all-star Chris Bosh to form a superteam. Many thought LeBron took the easy way out to win a championship and by doing that, as Johnathan Abrams and Catherine Skipp of the New York Times noted, he damaged his legacy by not winning a title by being “the guy.”
Kobe Bryant, on the otherhand, has built a reputation as someone who can lead a team to a championship. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote that Bryant himself noted that this was a personal goal of his. Besides his five championship rings and overall popularity in the game, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are similar, I admit.
Both are former Most Valuable Players, multiple-time all-stars, well-renowed defensive players and they both are entertaining. However, I feel that what separates Kobe from LeBron is Kobe’s all-around game and leadership ability.
Kobe has more offensive weapons than LeBron and will lock down an opposing team’s best player. While defensively, LeBron is just as strong as Kobe, he has yet to master a reliable mid range or long range jumpshot and has not developed a post game, something Kobe has mastered. Teams can live or die by LeBron James beating them with his jumpshooting ability, while it is considered foolish to let Kobe shoot anywhere from the floor unattended. For those little but huge reasons, Kobe Bryant is the better overall player than LeBron James.
Deciding who is the best player in the NBA between Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade would be a better debate, in my opinion. When looking at both player’s respective careers, there are many similarities. Both are NBA champions, NBA Finals MVPs, multiple time all-stars, former NBA scoring champions and acclaimed defensive players. Most importantly, they have both demonstrated the ability to be “clutch” and will their team to victory, specifically in pursuit of an NBA championship. For the record, Wade has said that Kobe is still the best player in the NBA. However, respected sports analysts, such as Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless, have gone on the record making their cases as to why Dwyane Wade is the best player in the NBA.
To be perfectly honest, Wade is the only player in the league who can rival Kobe for the “best player” title. Not just because they play the same positions or because they have similar accolades, but because Wade truly means everything to the Miami Heat just as Kobe Bryant means everything to the Los Angeles Lakers.
If you take Dwyane Wade off of the Miami Heat and leave them with just LeBron James and Chris Bosh, they do not make the NBA Finals this past season or win their only championship in 2006. If you take Kobe Bryant off of the Los Angeles Lakers, it’s debatable if they even make the playoffs or have the five championship teams that Kobe was a part of. Both players are their’s respective organizations “franchise players.”
So, what truly separates Bryant and Wade for the title of best player in the NBA? I can point to Kobe’s experience, multiple championships and playoff experience in a debate while noting Wade’s two NBA finals appearances where he is 1-1. I can also point out that Wade has only made it out of the first round of the playoffs four times compared to Kobe’s twelve times. However, this is truly the toughest debate in basketball. Right now, I give Kobe the slight edge over D-Wade because of his experience and longer track record.
In conclusion, the facts do not lie. Kobe Bryant has accomplished everything there is as an NBA Player. While LeBron James definitely can match Kobe stats-wise and Dwyane Wade can make a strong, legit case as to why he is the best player in the game, at the end of the day… Kobe Bryant has just done more than both of those terrific athletes. As the best player in the NBA, “The Black Mamba” reigns supreme.