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Old 05-29-2009, 10:00 AM   #61
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i believe in lebron's unbelievable physical dominance. i do not believe he is the most talented player in the league... that's still Kobe.

i also believe in the old standard of the "ring is the thing." i refuse to anoint lebron as the best player in the league until he wins a championship. that's the way it always was, that's the way i will hold it.

here's the thing... this is the argument i always use in the Kobe vs. Lebron debate... if both of them, today, were to suffer massive knee injuries that robbed them of their explosiveness... who would be the better player upon their return?

kobe clearly has more pure basketball skill. if lebron lost his athleticism, he'd have to readjust his game and become more of a post-up player... similar to what happened to larry johnson after his back injury. not saying LJ was as good as LBJ, just sayin'.

either way... neither one of them measures up to Michael Jordan. close, yes. closer than any have gotten since MJ retired. but close is all... Jordan is still King.

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Kobe the Kingmaker
The NBA's ultimate rivalry: Kobe Bryant vs. the Guy Beating Kobe Bryant.
By Tom Scocca
Posted Thursday, May 28, 2009, at 2:32 PM ET
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The NBA and its marketers, dedicated to maximum hype always, have been rooting (via the medium of puppetry) for a collision of superduperstars in this year's NBA Finals. The trailer for an ESPN special about Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, "Dream Season: 23 & 24," prematurely posited that the Cleveland Cavalier gives Kobe a long-awaited, worthy rival to test himself against, like Magic Johnson against Larry Bird, each man's brilliance counterbalanced by the other's.

But Magic and Bird were true contemporaries: They battled for the college championship, then entered the NBA together as rookies. Kobe was a three-time NBA champ when LeBron was still in high school. And now, at age 30, Bryant is starting to fade from his physical peak, while the 24-year-old James is still on his way up. Their relationship is more like the one between Bird and the aging Julius Erving—though the two did star in a one-on-one video game, their on-court rivalry was punctuated by a frustrated Dr. J grabbing his young tormentor by the throat.

More importantly, the Waiting for LeBron premise shortchanges the rivalry that has truly defined an era in the NBA: Kobe Bryant against the Guy Beating Kobe Bryant.

Ask Paul Pierce. Or Manu Ginobili. Or Chauncey Billups. Or ask Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw—you don't even have to win an NBA title to enjoy the rewards of beating Kobe Bryant. It is its own reward, the defining rite of passage for a generation of players. This season, it's Carmelo Anthony and the perennially lightweight Denver Nuggets who have the privilege of slugging it out with the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. If he can beat Kobe, Anthony will have established himself as not just a scorer but an all-around star and perhaps an eventual Hall of Famer, the kind of player who can rise to the biggest occasions.

Playing Kobe Bryant is the biggest occasion in the league. From the moment he went pro, Bryant's obvious, self-conscious ambition was to be the next Michael Jordan, the player against whom all other players would be measured. In his own way, Kobe has reached that goal. It's just that other players like the way they measure up.

This doesn't mean that Bryant is easy to beat. If it were easy, nobody would care, and Kobe would be another Jerry Stackhouse or Vince Carter on the scrap heap of failed Next Jordans. Bryant is a ferocious competitor, a preposterously skilled and creative scorer, a stifling defender. He's just not impossible to beat.

Michael Jordan's standard of excellence was cruelly unattainable. Once Jordan and the Bulls made it to the top of the league—struggling up through the brutal round-robin among Bird's Celtics, Magic's Lakers, and the bad boy Pistons—the tradition of new champions wresting the title from the old champ was broken. Nobody was going to wrest anything from Jordan.

The only playoff series he lost after reaching the pinnacle—to Shaquille O'Neal and the Orlando Magic—came in Jordan's short-season comeback from his baseball-playing interregnum. He wore No. 45 when that happened, as if to make sure that posterity would know that the guy getting stripped of the ball by Nick Anderson was not the real Jordan.

Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller—a whole cohort of legends trudged off without ever getting a ring, their best years lost in Jordan's shadow. The few Jordan-era superstars who did win titles never beat the Bulls star on the court. Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler won during the baseball/No. 45 years; David Robinson and Gary Payton were lucky enough to hang on in the league after Jordan's 1998 retirement.

Kobe, teaming up with O'Neal for three straight titles, seemed as if he might cast the same sort of shadow. Yet for every Jason Kidd or Allen Iverson who was thwarted by the Lakers, there've been Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, who have seen their dreams come true at Kobe's expense. (Karl Malone's mistake was trying to team up with Kobe for his last shot at a ring rather than going against him.) In his yearning for the post-Jordan spotlight, Kobe became the spotlight himself—it's in his presence that the other players, and their championship jewelry, shine the brightest.

There's something crowd-pleasingly definitive about a Kobe Bryant playoff series. When he wins, he wins with full Jordan-esque swagger. You know you've been beaten. When he loses—when he loses, he goes into strange, shot-refusing snits; his teams crumple and get routed; he weeps and the tip of his nose turns pink.

Bryant is also the perfect foil for every sort of rivalry. Dynastic? Tim Duncan's Spurs have four rings to Kobe's three. Cryptodynastic? The critically acclaimed, fast-breaking Phoenix Suns couldn't win a title, but they could beat Kobe. Intrasquad? Since their feud broke up the championship Lakers, Shaq has won a ring without Kobe, and Kobe has none without Shaq. Intergenerational? If LeBron doesn't make the Finals, we'll have to settle for Carmelo. Player-against-coach? Phil Jackson left L.A. in exasperation, Kobe missed the playoffs entirely, and Jackson came back. And a proof by counterexample: The Miami Heat's championship win over the Dallas Mavericks was so forgettable because neither team had to beat Kobe to get there. The whole thing felt unpersuasive.

How did Billups transform his reputation from underwhelming journeyman to tough-minded floor general? By beating Kobe and the Lakers. How did Bruce Bowen and Raja Bell go from roster filler to fixtures on the all-defense team? By being the guys who checked Kobe. He is the defining constant in scoring duels (Kobe's 45 points lost out to Gilbert Arenas' 60), scorer-against-stopper matchups (Kobe vs. Tayshaun Prince), and even conceptual arguments—beating Kobe was supposed to be the proof of the Houston Rockets' stat-nerd theories (though Kobe won).

Even if LeBron James misses his appointment for a showdown in the Finals (or if both of them do), King James has already shown that he too is reliant on the Kingmaker. In February, Bryant scored 61 points against the Knicks to set a new record for Madison Square Garden. Two days later, James followed with a headline-stealing 52 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. One rebound would be deducted on a scorer's correction afterward, but the apparent triple-double had already sent the intended message: Kobe could score like crazy, but LeBron could dominate every aspect of the game.

After the Olympics, we were treated to stories about how Kobe had proven his superiority to his Olympic teammates, especially James and Anthony. They had been awed by his hard work at training and his ferocious defense, and they deferred to him down the stretch of Team USA's tight gold-medal-game win over Spain. The purported moral: "Now you've seen, up close, what makes Kobe the best player in the world." But that thinking is a relic of an earlier age. Michael Jordan broke his challengers, convincing every player in the NBA that no one else had what it takes to be the best. Kobe Bryant, too, tests his opponents' will—but sometimes they pass the test. The real lesson of the Olympics: "Pick up a few pointers from Kobe, and maybe you can take him."

Tom Scocca is a writer in Maryland.
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Old 05-29-2009, 10:05 AM   #62
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I agree with Headache.

Let's wait and see if Lebron can even make it to the finals AND win a championship before we all bow down.

He is a great talent. And yes, he should only get better. He seems like the type who wants to get better too.

But part of me thinks he's letting this whole "chosen one" thing go to his head just a little. Last night was a good game for him. Since he doesn't have the cast like other teams do, he needs to get them involved more. A triple double over just scoring 50 points is what it's going to take.

Also, I do get a bit annoyed that any time a player is in the paint, a foul is called. For both teams. So boring to watch free throw contests.
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Old 05-29-2009, 10:34 AM   #63
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Their relationship is more like the one between Bird and the aging Julius Erving—though the two did star in a one-on-one video game, their on-court rivalry was punctuated by a frustrated Dr. J grabbing his young tormentor by the throat.
I remember that...ah good times.
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Old 05-29-2009, 12:39 PM   #64
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Originally Posted by Headache in a Suitcase View Post

here's the thing... this is the argument i always use in the Kobe vs. Lebron debate... if both of them, today, were to suffer massive knee injuries that robbed them of their explosiveness... who would be the better player upon their return?

kobe clearly has more pure basketball skill. if lebron lost his athleticism, he'd have to readjust his game and become more of a post-up player... .

If Lebron suffered a massive knee injury, he could play point and average 15 assists per game.

Also, what do you mean by "pure basketball skill?" Points? Rebounds? Assists? Shooting percentage? Three point percentage? Etc.?

Thanks.
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Old 05-29-2009, 01:05 PM   #65
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If Lebron suffered a massive knee injury, he could play point and average 15 assists per game.

.
As the highest career assist average is Magic's 11.2 and the highest single season assist average is Stockton's 14.5, I'm gonna say "No" to this.
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Old 05-29-2009, 01:13 PM   #66
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If Lebron suffered a massive knee injury, he could play point and average 15 assists per game.

Also, what do you mean by "pure basketball skill?" Points? Rebounds? Assists? Shooting percentage? Three point percentage? Etc.?

Thanks.
lebron could not play the point if he lost his athleticism without a serious adjustment to his game. he'd have to become more of a post player.

he does not have a great handle, and his court vision has actually gotten worse as the years go on. a slowed lebron would have to develop a knock down outside shot, which he still has yet to do. he's either on or way way off, and he's almost always open when he shoots from the outside because of the fear of his ability to drive to the basket. Hedo plays 5 feet off him at all times.

pure basketball skill is not neccesarily measured by any stat.

centers shoot 60% from the field... does not mean they are good shooters.

kobe bryant's actuall skills are superious to those of lebron james'. he's a better shooter and a better ball handler. you can debate who has better court vision... i'd go with kobe but i wouldn't argue long with somebody who picked lebron.

it's lebron's overwellming physical attributes that allow him to be the force that he is. he's the size of karl malone, for christ's sake. his speed combined with his size makes a medicore handle better because it's very difficult for a player to strip him. it's why magic was able to play the point... not that magic was the athlete lebron was (although he used to dunk on people left and right in college) but magic had lebron's speed and had much better court vision than lebron has. lebron turns the ball over way way way too often to make such a claim that he could "average 15 assists a game"

take away lebron's explosiveness and his game will take a huge hit.

again... lebron may actually be the better "player" who does more for his team... you can make that argument. but kobe is the more talented basketball player when it comes to pure skill. there is no argument to that.

i happen to think kobe's just better regardless, but if you want to argue lebron is, fine.

let me give an example... patrick ewing was a more talented basketball player, skill wise, than shaq ever was... but shaq was certainly more dominant than patrick ever was, due to his overwellming physical attributes.
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Old 05-29-2009, 01:28 PM   #67
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btw... Lebron is averaging 8 assists and 4 1/2 turnovers per game... an assist to turnover ratio of 1.8 to 1.

magic was a career 3.4 to 1 in the playoffs... 12.3 to 3.6

lebron has the ball in his hands EVERY SINGLE POSSESION down the court for cleveland in which he's on the floor. he already is a point guard, if not in name.

it's his number one flaw... perhaps the flaw of his coach, but a flaw none the less.

he dominates the ball too much. basketball is a game of rythym. players need to catch and score in rythym to be effective. when one player has the ball 80% of the time, it's very difficult for the other players on the floor to establish a rythym. thus why i want to smack people who say "lebron gets no help." when one player dominates the ball so much the rest of the players tend to just stand around and watch.. and then when they do get the ball, they have no rythym.

kobe has this problem often as well. jordan had the problem, phil jackson eliminated it. michael jordan averaged 33.4 ppg in the 5 seasons he played without winning a title (not counting the comeback year and the broken leg year) and averaged 30.2 in the 6 seasons he won a title. that's not a coincidence. 5 of his 6 lowest PPG averages (again not counting the injured season and the comeback season and the wizards) came in seasons in which he won a title.
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Old 05-29-2009, 01:56 PM   #68
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Great posts Headache! I enjoy reading your analysis of basketball.
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Old 05-29-2009, 02:27 PM   #69
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In any debate about Kobe and LeBron, it should also be mentioned that Kobe is a douche.
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Old 05-29-2009, 02:32 PM   #70
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In any debate about Kobe and LeBron, it should also be mentioned that Kobe is a douche.
He should only be referred to as the Mamba.

The Magic played an uneven game last night, with Lewis nearly not showing up and everyone in "foul trouble," but LeBron had to have nearly a perfect game and have all of his teammates hit open shots for the first time in the series to win, and the Magic still had a chance?

Yeah, I'm not worried about Saturday night.
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Old 05-29-2009, 02:35 PM   #71
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No, not that one. I was referring to the one from last night and the one where Joey Crawford thought Dwight was yelling at him, when it was directed at the Cavs bench right next to him.

Although getting a tech and suspension for one play is bit of overkill.
Ah, I seem to be confusing my Howard technicals. Either way, despite my respect for you, I can't stand Howard or Van Gundy, and for that reason the Magic.
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Old 05-29-2009, 02:36 PM   #72
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And I'm rooting Magic/Lakers. So fuck you, Peef.
I can't root for LA because I despise Kobe, and I can't root for the Magic because I don't like Van Gundy or Howard.
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Old 05-29-2009, 02:37 PM   #73
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Ah, I seem to be confusing my Howard technicals. Either way, despite my respect for you, I can't stand Howard or Van Gundy, and for that reason the Magic.
That's fair. I found both of them to be fairly endearing.
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Old 05-29-2009, 02:43 PM   #74
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That's fair. I found both of them to be fairly endearing.
It's that whole rabbit ear issue he has: he loves listening to quotes people make in the media and then going into press conferences and lashing out at them. He did that not once but twice with Philly, with DiLeo and then I think Thad Young. It's pretty classless. I find him endlessly entertaining, but I really don't like him much.

And Howard's been involved in a number of incidents so far but tries to play innocent all the time, which bugs me. It would be OK if he did it once, but it keeps happening.

But that's me, and I've more than once been accused of being crazy.
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Old 05-29-2009, 11:44 PM   #75
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...and the NBA breathes a half-sigh of relief.
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