Ah yes, the perfect fodder for the slow days of the NBA off-season in August. Stories about all-time greats giving their two cents and ranking other great players and why they feel one player is better than another.
Today’s public player ranking comes from none other than Michael Jordan himself. When asked by Bay Area HQ on Wednesday which player he sees as being better between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, Jordan opted for the Black Mamba.
“Would I rank LeBron over Kobe in terms of best of all-time? No. There’s something about five that beats three. Now he may be better than that, but Kobe won five championships. LeBron won three.”
In a completely unsurprising move, Jordan ranks Kobe as the better player because he has won more titles than LeBron has at this point in LeBron’s career at the age of 32, with five to LeBron’s three.
While the whole counting rings argument has serious value in helping quantify the careers of some of the NBA’s greatest players, it is overly used and a lazy argument.
The number of championships a superstar wins has to do with so many factors outside of a superstar’s control such as luck, injuries, the landscape of the league, rules, etc. ranking players purely on championships won lacks quite a bit of context.
I am sure Michael Jordan or basically any basketball fan in the world wouldn’t rank Robert Horry and his seven NBA titles or Bill Russell and his 11 NBA titles over Jordan’s career and six NBA titles right? I didn’t think so.
It is not surprising that Jordan favors Kobe over LeBron not only because of the extra rings at this point, but also because Kobe modeled his game after Jordan and exhibited the same mentality to other players on and off the court.
In my opinion, while Kobe amassed a better NBA Finals record, 5-3 to LeBron’s 3-5 at this point, he is not the complete player that LeBron James has molded himself into as an an elite leader on and off the court, scoring threat and passer than can defend all five positions and take over the game in a number of ways.
LeBron doesn’t have five titles, but he also didn’t play with Shaq at his peak like Kobe and Kobe Bryant never had to face a team like the Golden State Warriors or even the latest championship iteration of the San Antonio Spurs like LeBron has for the past five seasons.
LeBron may not end up with the number of rings that Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant has, but in my personal opinion, there has never been a more complete basketball player than LeBron James.
If only we could have seen these three guys face off against one another during their peaks.