I found a great article on basketballogy.com, discussing many of the same points about why LeBron might be better but can never be viewed through the same spectrum as Kobe, or Michael Jordan for that matter. The author Tom7, claims that LeBron will never be as respected as MJ, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird or a number of other NBA legends “Because these NBA legends won more than just championships, their epic battles waged against worthy nemesises won respect, even from their opponents, and earned them their place in NBA history. Because if sports was just about the outcome and not the journey, we’d all stay home and get the scores off the Internet. Because being on top of a mountain earns people little respect, it’s the size of the obstacles they had to overcome in their climb that make these men so impressive.” By jumping ship and swimming over to South Beach, no title LeBron ever wins will mean as much to his legacy and the history books as a championship earned the hard way in Cleveland would have been. It was his prerogative to make that choice, but it is also ours as basketball fans to judge him for it.
Michael toiled for 7 long years in Chicago until he won his first -he was the promising, talented player who couldn’t win a title, but he never bolted. Kobe was the Robin to Shaquille’s Batman in the early years and morphed into the Dark Knight after being vilified for chasing championship dreams out of Los Angeles. I would argue that he was being the player he needed to be for the greater good: management needed pressure to bring in complimentary chess pieces for Kobe’s ultimate game. After all, Kobe was vilified in more ways than one in 2004 and it was unclear whether his legacy and legend would become permanently tarnished. In the end, he became Lakerland’s shining hero once again- hitting game winning jumpers, learning to trust his teammates and leading them to three NBA Finals and two championships. He can move just as easily between jocular hero and grim-faced antihero depending on what the situation demands.
I’m not trying to argue that Kobe was right to be petulant with his teammates or that he is the best player of all time. I’m merely trying to point out that what Kobe does is, in his mind at least, for the greater good. He a transcendent basketball player and one of the greatest to ever step on the court, thanks to a mixture of pure talent, preparedness, a dogged determination to constantly improve and a maniacal need to win each and every year. His mentality and approach to the game is unmatched. LeBron could conceivably get there one day, but he is not there now. And that is why he might be the most effective player in the league, but he is not the best player in the league.
The last scene of The Dark Knight is so powerful and the quote is one of my favorites. Commissioner Gordon tries to explain to his confused son that even though Batman hasn’t done anything wrong, they have to chase him “ Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So, we’ll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A Dark Knight.” Kobe is the guardian of the Lakers’ championship dreams for as long as he continues to play. LeBron could have been the Dark Knight watching over the desolate landscape of Cleveland. Instead, he took his talents to Dwayne Wade’s house, more than happy to use his God-given gifts in the guise of Robin.