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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Commentary

NBA force-feeds overblown Kobe-Lebron rivalry


Most people have already seen the NBA’s new advertising campaign depicting two of basketball’s biggest stars on a collision course to meet late in the season. It’s pretty evident that the NBA and its partners, not to mention many fans, would like to see a Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James finals this summer. 

It turns out that with both their teams on top of their respective conferences and with few other teams showing the ability to challenge their teams, the NBA may get its wish. 

What’s odd about this scenario is that many NBA analysts and talking heads have long said that James has taken the torch from Bryant and is now the better player.  

Try telling that to Bryant, the defending regular season and Finals MVP, who is only 31 years old and among the league’s leading scorers. Bryant, to be fair, has shown the wear-and-tear of 14 seasons on his sleeve this year with a not-so-subtle back injury.  

At the same time, credit must be given to James for leading his team to a season sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s also noteworthy that James, who is the league’s third-leading scorer, has improved immensely on defense since coming to the NBA in 2003. 

It still doesn’t mean he’s better.

Where Bryant clearly has James beat is his reputation for the big shot. Being clutch is something subjective, but how surprising is it when Bryant’s highlights on SportsCenter include a game-winning shot?

James made his mark in last year’s postseason, however, with a huge shot against Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals. Unfortunately for James, the Magic ended up winning the series and denying him a chance at a championship ring. 

Bryant has four of those coveted rings in six trips to the Finals while James failed in his lone Finals visit. It’s that above anything else that separates the two players, and until James closes the gap its tough for someone to argue, he’s the better of the two players. 

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