In an era looking for a new Michael Jordan, LeBron and Kobe are the closest things we have. And the media, fans, and whoever else love to compare them to each other as well.
Kobe has the rings
LeBron has the stats
So who do we like more? The comparisons are endless. However, what they usually don't cover are off the field issues.....
REWIND: It's the summer of 2004. The Lakers have just finished a disappointing season with the likes of Karl Malone and Gary Payton looking for title number 4 in 5 years. However, things end rather abruptly when they are beaten in 5 games by the Detroit Pistons.
And the team is quickly dismantled.
In one day, Kobe opted out, Phil informed Jerry Buss he wasn't coming back, and Shaq demanded a trade.
And Kobe was left to find a team after a disappointing season. The likes of the Bulls, Knicks, Nuggets, Clippers, and Lakers courted Kobe. He narrowed it down to the 2 Los Angeles teams.
And, after much deliberation, on Thursday, July 15, he told Jerry Buss he was coming back to LA. To be the man and be the star of his franchise.
Fast Forward: LeBron James, following a 2nd disappointing exit, becomes a free agent. Teams have cleared space multiple seasons hoping for him.
As a boy in Akron, LeBron grew up through high school just 45 minutes away from Cleveland. So, it seemed like destiny that the hometown boy would end up in Cleveland in 2003. A town that suffered so much heartbreak over the years was granted a present from the man above. LeBron came into the league at a full sprint and dominated the league for a better portion of the last 3 years.
So when free agency came around, all those in Cleveland felt like LeBron leaving was some sort of nightmare.
Nightmares can come true.
And LeBron did it in the worst way possible. He hosted a one-hour special like nothing we've ever seen before to tell the world he was leaving his town and joining two other superstars in Miami.
And how perception changed.
While Kobe has and likely always will have an asterisk by his first 3 titles, an asterisk will only be the start of it for LeBron. Kobe had one superstar in his prime. LeBron has one top 3 player in the league and another top 15 player with him. Nothing like this has ever happened.
LeBron had his shot to be the man. If he wants to be donned the King and be the greatest ever, he would have stayed in Cleveland.
MJ was the man in Chicago. He never left the team (while he played)
Kobe was the man in LA. He never left the team when he could have
And that why, in my book, Kobe's always going to have the edge. Throw all the stats you want at me. LeBron can go out and win 12 titles with Wade and Bosh, but it won't be the same. Kobe had his shot to run to the Clippers, who were in much better shape to win with Kobe than the Lakers, but wanted to be the man.
LeBron chickened out. Plain and simple. He tore the hearts out of every Cleveland fan. He did it in arguably the cruelest fashion in Cleveland sports history, which is saying a lot.
Sure, Kobe complained 2 and a half years later or so after resigning and wanted a trade, but he ended up calling off the demands and stuck it out. And that is more than LeBron can say. Never has someone meant that much to one city as LeBron did to Cleveland. And never has a man so cruelly ripped out their hearts as he just did.
Now Kobe will always be better than LeBron. He accepted his challenge, adapted, and won titles. LeBron copped out and jumped ship to join superstars.
Kobe will always have the rings now. He earned at least 2 of his. LeBron earned none. Kobe looked his challenge in the eye and said "Bring it on," LeBron looked at his and said "Wait, let me get help." And for that, I lost a lot of respect for LeBron