Michael Jordan is considered as the NBA GOAT with LeBron James right on his tail, but there was a time when LeBron vs. Kobe was a genuine debate.
Of course, on paper it seems like there should be a debate between Kobe and LeBron, just based off how many titles both players have won, but after watching LeBron’s historic dominance of the East and the kind of Championship runs he led, it becomes clear that he’s above Kobe.
Of course, that’s a debate purely focused around greatness and player success. It becomes much harder to compare both players individually if you wanted to pick one to win a 1v1, for example.
Jordan was asked to pick between the two in 2013, and back then, there was definitely a gap between LeBron and Kobe. Kobe was a five time champ and was still producing at a very high level. Meanwhile, LeBron had only one title to his name at that point.
June 21, 2012: The Heat beat the Thunder in G5 of the NBA Finals giving LeBron James his first NBA Championship. pic.twitter.com/xW7TXT7fOM
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Michael Jordan justifies picking Kobe Bryant over LeBron James
LeBron’s GOAT status truly started to take form after he won his third championship. That title run was historic and had all the storylines James needed to place himself up alongside Michael Jordan. Coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the greatest regular season team of all time placed LeBron on a pedestal, and NBA fans had to reconsider their thoughts on ‘The King.’
Up until then, James’ titles were placed under a microscope. He had joined a stacked Miami Heat team, supposedly taking the easy way out, and even then, he hadn’t dominated the way many people thought he would (LeBron included…not one, not two…). The Finals loss against the Mavericks really hurt his legacy. Not only did the Heat lose to an inferior team led by a single superstar, James also had the worst postseason performance of his career.
The Cavs Finals saved LeBron. Then, he added another with LA, bringing him to cusp of passing up Jordan. Injuries have hampered LeBron’s teams the last two years, but there’s been no doubt about his own greatness. Now, there truly is nobody between James and Jordan.
Back in 2013, there definitely was though. Jordan was asked to pick between Kobe and James, and he gave a half-neutral response before eventually picking the Lakers legend.
“In terms of dominance of the game of basketball at this stage, it’s LeBron. Championship-wise, it’s Kobe Bryant. He wants it so bad, he’s willing to go to the extreme. Guarding a guy, guarding the point guards at age 34, and playing 38 minutes, 40 minutes — that’s ludicrous. I think this is what he’s battling with. It is what it is. He’s cursed as much as I am.
“If you had to pick between the two, that would be a tough choice but five beats one.”