LeBron-versus-Michael is one of the great bar-stool debates in the history of sports – in part because the LeBron-versus-Kobe debate, for many, has already been settled.
Brandton Tierney, for one, believes James has surpassed Bryant – and did so a while ago.
“I’d have to agree with you,” NBA-TV analyst Stu Jackson said on Tiki and Tierney. “The only place where (LeBron falls short of Kobe) is in the number of championships and his longevity – because Kobe played for 20 years. He consequently was in more playoffs, had an opportunity to be in more All-Star Games. But statistically, LeBron outweighs Kobe, I think, by a long shot. Just go to any category.”
For his career, Bryant averaged 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. James is averaging 27.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and 1.6 steals.
“He’s got him beat in all categories,” Jackson said, “and it’s only a matter of time before he either catches Kobe, assuming he says healthy, and surpasses Kobe in some of those longevity stats.”
Bryant defenders need not feel slighted. Kobe is still one of the greatest players in NBA history. But James, for many, is just better.
“Listen, LeBron, right now, is the best player in the game – and has been for a very long time,” Jackson said. “That’s no disrespect at all to Kobe because we’re slicing hairs here in terms of greatness, but he was the greatest player in the game even when Kobe was still playing.”
Still, Bryant has at least one thing going for him in the debate: He stayed with the same franchise for his entire career – and won five championships. James, on other hand, chased rings, which might be why people are more critical of LeBron than they are of Kobe.
“We are more critical LeBron,” Jackson said, “but he hasn’t helped himself in this modern-day quest to get a championship.”
In other news, Jackson also weighed in on Steve Kerr’s decision to let his players coaches in Golden State’s win over the Suns on Monday.
If Jackson were an opposing player, would that bother him?
“Yeah, it may have,” Jackson said. “I think in a perfect world, I don’t begrudge Steve Kerr for what he did. There’s 82 games in a season, he’s dealing with a team that’s been together for a long time, and it’s really incumbent upon the coach to find alternate ways and creative ways to motivate his team over the course of 82 games, particularly with this group. This was just another technique or method he wanted to try in the face of the fact that they haven’t been playing great basketball.”
Golden State (44-13) had lost three of five entering Monday’s game.
“When Steve Kerr says that it’s the players’ team, at the professional level, I really subscribe to that,” Jackson said. “I believe it. So keeping to his word, he wanted them to decide which direction they wanted to go. This was an opportunity to allow them to show that. I don’t begrudge that. . . . But I would have liked it, in a perfect world, for it to (have been) a little more private.”