Today, everybody compares Lebron James and Michael Jordan, debating who is the best in numerous and heated discussions. But are they the only two we should talk about? Have we forgotten about Kobe Bryant? According to Charles Barkley, the actual discussion is who is no.2 – LeBron or Kobe?
Even though everybody compares Kobe to MJ because of their similarity, Kobe’s most significant career rival was Lebron James, as they played against each other during their prime years. NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley shared his thoughts on the Kobe-LeBron debate back in 2016 in an interview with Graham Bensinger when asked to rank MJ, LeBron, and Kobe based on pure ability. Jordan was the obvious number one, but he had his thoughts for number two:
“Probably LeBron second, because Michael and Kobe are similar. Kobe’s not Michael, but LeBron James; we never had a player like him. Michael and Kobe are both 6’6”, 230, perfect bodies, amazing. We never had a guy who was 6’8”, 260-270, who looks like he weighs 220, who can outrun anybody, who can outjump anybody, we never had a player like that. LeBron is such an amazing freak of nature. It’s an honor and a privilege to watch him play.”Charles Barkley via Graham Bensinger
When it comes to pure basketball ability, Sir Charles gave LeBron the nod because of the combination of his athleticism and skill. But when championships and the total body of work come into play, Charles said he prefers Kobe over LeBron on numerous occasions. It’s all about the angle you are looking at, as you can’t just simply look at them and say one is better than the other for certain. I would say that the same logic applies in the MJ-LeBron debate.
Comparing Kobe and Jordan is more intuitive because they had such similar playstyles and psychical attributes that made them great. But when you compare Kobe with LeBron, it is much different. Firstly they play different positions. Secondly, LeBron is a playmaker first and all-around threat, while Kobe was a pure scorer and killer.
In the end, who you pick is mostly a referendum on the particular flavour of basketball player you prefer. Both represent the pinnacle of basketball and are in the Pantheon of the game we love.