This edition of Hoop Dreams is a product of Twitter.
Dmoses3, a UCSB student, tweeted @thenexus_sports 22 consecutive times about LeBron James’ dominance and NBA columnist Ravi Bhatia’s stupidity, because Ravi had written that Blake Griffin could win a championship before James (amongst other things). Before saying “goodnight,” Dmoses3 also suggested we hire his friend, Twitter user Teehayy.
Intrigued by Dmoses3 recommending a friend rather than himself, Ravi challenged Teehayy — actually a UCSB junior named Tyler Hayden — to a LeBron v. Kobe faceoff.
This is Ravi’s Kobe column. Tyler’s LeBron article was in yesterday’s (May 10) edition of the Nexus. The full Twitter battle can be seen @DMoses3, @thenexus_sports and @Teehayy.
There’s no denying the athletic talent of LeBron James.
Statistically, Kobe and LeBron have each averaged over 30 a game more than once in their careers. Both have similar numbers in their primes (LeBron likely hasn’t reached his yet, Kobe’s over the hump), multiple All-Defensive First Team awards, MVP awards and so on. Kobe will never reach LeBron’s career 27.1 ppg average. LeBron may never replicate Kobe’s 81-point game. Still, they’ve both shown they can do whatever they want to on the court.
But so has Dirk Nowitzki this season. So have Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. With so many players (eight this season) capable of putting up 25-plus points per game over a season, how should we measure greatness?
Greatness should be measured by the number of rings a player earns on teams that he undisputedly leads. The “undisputed leader” distinction disqualifies role players on great teams from the list of the greatest.
Kobe has five rings. Two of those rings were on teams where he was the undisputed star, but it can be argued that he rode shotgun with Shaquille O’Neal for the other three.
LeBron has none. The Heat may win this season, but the league and media consensus is that the team belongs to Dwayne Wade or the trio of Wade, James and Chris Bosh. Not LeBron James alone.
When discussing two players with the potential to go down in history in the top 20 players of all time, symbolism, peer perception and legacy are more important factors than statistics. This is why players believe some championships are better than others. This is why a January poll suggesting that 79 percent of general managers would choose Kobe over any other player to take the last shot — in spite of Kobe’s 25-percent rate in clutch situations — is so significant.
Michael sweeping the Detroit Bad Boys on the way to his first championship: symbolically one of the most important moments of his career. Kobe winning his first without Shaq — symbolically his most important.
James leaving his hometown team for greener pastures and the potential for a ring: symbolically the most detrimental action of his career thus far. Both MJ and Magic Johnson spoke out against LeBron’s move south, because both understood the importance of leadership to a legacy.
LeBron was almost there in Cleveland, but he didn’t finish what he started and now we’ll never know how great of a leader he could have been.
Symbolically, the Mavs’ sweep of the Lakers could mark the end of Kobe’s reign over the NBA or the beginning of a new Laker dynasty with fresh blood surrounding Kobe. I wouldn’t be surprised either way. But any player that comes to L.A. knows he’s giving up a chance at forging his own legacy in exchange for contributing to Kobe’s.
For now, LeBron must settle for being the most athletic, most entertaining player in the NBA. He has a way to go.
At least he’s still in the playoffs.
Daily Nexus NBA columnist Ravi Bhatia does far more things than just this column “Black Mamba style.”