UPDATE 6.17.09 – Nike Muppet ‘Celebration’ for Kobe Bryant (Commercial). Click HERE
UPDATE 6.1.09 – Maybe Mo’Kelly should “re-post” this article…since he was EXACTLY right. Wow, sometimes I amaze even myself.
OK, OK…I’ll bite. Yes, Mo’Kelly will do the obligatory article on the brooding debate over whether “King” LeBron James is “greater” than Kobe “The Black Mamba” Bryant. By now you’ve all seen the Nike “muppet” campaign. You’ve seen the Vitamin Water “24 vs. 23” campaign. And if that weren’t enough there’s this insignificant daily event called the NBA Playoffs.
In the writing world, this would be called “low-hanging fruit,” an easy topic. But let’s address this from a different angle. Not from the vantage point of fandom, not arguments based in emotion, just simple facts.
We should be able to agree that greatness is inextricably linked to accomplishments. With that in mind, accomplishments are not the same as “potential,” “career trajectory” or speculation about future improvement. Accomplishments are for the most part inarguable and rather objective yardsticks.
Either you have…or you haven’t, period.
What’s most laughable to Mo’Kelly is that this new generation of NBA fans often act like it didn’t happen unless it appeared on ESPN Sportscenter.
ESPN has only been around for 30 years and believe it or not, the NBA…slightly longer. That said, these are the facts.
To “compare” LeBron James to Kobe Bryant (or other top Hall of Famers) is a ridiculous argument on its best day. To allege that LeBron James is as of May 2009 one of the greatest NBA players ever is equally as laughable.
As of this writing, LeBron James is still fighting for his playoff life, just for the opportunity to PLAY in the NBA finals, playing in a widely regarded inferior Eastern Conference. Not only has LeBron James NOT won a championship ring, he’s not even won ONE finals game, having been swept by the San Antonio Spurs in 2007.
Greatness? Maybe one day…but not as of today.
In the pre-Sportscenter highlight era, Magic Johnson played all five positions and started at center in place of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar AS A ROOKIE. His statline for game 6 of the 1980 NBA finals…42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists and a RING for his efforts. He personally closed out the series. And let’s not forget, it was against Dr. J. in his prime.
Magic did it as a ROOKIE. LeBron makes a last second shot in a non-decisive game 2 in the conference finals in his 6th season. We won’t even talk about Magic Johnson’s running hook shot over Boston IN Boston to win game 4 of the 1987 Finals…a Boston team which featured 3 Hall of Famers mostly in their prime. Magic Johnson’s greatest moments occurred in the NBA Finals.
LeBron’s thus far have occurred in the CONFERENCE finals.
Stop the madness please.
LeBron isn’t even the greatest 6’9” multi-position player. LeBron has 5 rings, 2 more MVPs and a gaggle of great NBA final moments in which to catch up with Magic Johnson. Remember, LeBron is often hailed for “making his teammates better.” There was never anyone better than Magic in that regard and the accomplishments on the resume prove as much.
As of 2009, there’s no comparison and it’s laughable to do so. Don’t talk to Mo’Kelly about what you “think” LeBron might do in the future. Greatness is about what you’ve done.
And speaking of 6’9” players in general, let’s not forget Karl Malone. Malone is the NBA’s second all-time leading
scorer. He has twice as many MVP’s, twice as many Olympic gold medals, twice as many All-Star game MVPs, more than twice as many All-Star game appearances and again as of this editorial, twice as many NBA Finals appearances as LeBron James, whose career is already well-underway.
Just the facts ma’am. Just the facts.
Might LeBron James eclipse Karl Malone one day? Maybe, maybe not. But the final arbiter will be accomplishments, not potential, speculation or Nike advertisement campaigns.
Remember, this debate is about “greatness,” not whether LeBron is a “great player.” They sound similar, but they’re widely different discussions. Hell, even Bernard King and Adrian Dantley were for a time “great players.” See the difference?
But back to Kobe Bryant. Having nothing to do with Shaq and his first 3 rings, Kobe did lead his team to the finals against Boston and won two games, coming out of a much more difficult West where every playoff team won 50 games. Not to mention, Kobe was named league MVP after playing in such a conference. Not all MVP awards are created equal.
Conversely, the East featured 2 teams in the playoffs under .500 and one at .500 last year. Cleveland didn’t even make the finals.
Just the facts ma’am. Just the facts.
To argue that one year later LeBron James has surpassed Kobe Bryant and is in the NBA pantheon of all-time greats is laughable. He likely will be in that pantheon one day…but not as of today and there are no guarantees in sports.
As of right now, he’s less than Charles Barkley, Dan Marino (football), Patrick Ewing and yes Karl Malone. No doubt, he has the potential and talent to one day eclipse them all…but as of today he has not. No, not as of today. He’s a greater “individual talent” than all of the aforementioned, but he is not greater than any of them when you examine and compare contributions and accomplishments.
I would argue that the ultimate yardstick of greatness is performing on the biggest stage and succeeding at the highest level. As of now, LeBron has done neither. He very well could, but that remains to be seen. It’s not on his list of accomplishments as of yet.
It’s on MJ’s resume, Magic’s, Bird’s, Duncan…run the list. And they all have multiple rings to show for their efforts, usually at the expense of one-another. Which leads Mo’Kelly to this next important point. The problem with awarding greatness on the basis of potential and forecasting career trajectory is that it never includes the variables of other great players who will emerge along the way.
Parallel: How many more MVPs (and rings) might Magic Johnson have won if Michael Jordan didn’t emerge, a player who entered the league SIX years after Magic? Jordan wasn’t on the NBA radar 6 years into Magic’s career but look how the conversation changed 10 years later. Coincidentally, this is LeBron’s sixth season. How many rings might Karl Malone have if he didn’t play in an era with Magic, Bird, Dr. J. and Jordan?
It’s not a question of whether LeBron will improve and add to his list of accomplishments. It is though a question of whether there will be emerging foils who will chip away at LeBron’s tablet of greatness and just how many there will be. Like Jordan versus Bird versus Magic, it could be someone not even on the NBA radar presently. How much did Bill Russell chip away from Wilt Chamberlain’s tablet of greatness? Although Wilt was the NBA’s all-time leading scorer (when he retired, now is 3rd), you will be hard-pressed to disregard Bill Russell’s 11 rings and his complete dominance of Chamberlain on the biggest stage. If Kobe Bryant wins a ring this year (be it against LeBron or not) what else is there to say?
Conversely, Jordan’s first ring was against Magic Johnson, but Jordan didn’t seal his greatness until many rings later.
Winning is everything. Nobody is the “greatest” anything who’s never won. Rings will always trump awards and stats. In any discussion of MVP caliber players and all-time greats…winning is the end-all argument. That’s ONE thing the Nike muppet ad got right.
Cleveland just might go down this year to an Orlando team without its emerging all-star caliber point guard. Orlando will only be better next year. An even younger Dwight Howard will have plenty to say in what appears on LeBron’s resume for the next six years.
The bottom line is this. It doesn’t matter if LeBron is the youngest to score “x” or do “y.” In the comparison between LeBron and Kobe (or any other Hall of Famer), it only matters who is the bigger winner. Winning defines greatness. Again, ask Wilt Chamberlain. (Yes, Mo’Kelly knows Wilt is dead, thank you.)
Kobe is the bigger winner and to be accurate in the direct comparison of these two, he is the ONLY winner.
LeBron has yet to win…anything…ever. It’s just a fact. Ask Steve Nash and his consecutive MVPs; he understands this point. Does this fact change this year for LeBron? Maybe…maybe not. But until it does, there’s no reason to even have the discussion.
Kobe 3 – LeBron 0 and just like the basketball scoreboard, the higher score wins every single time. Mo’Kelly’s been a “witness” to everything LeBron’s done…including the fact he’s not won.
The Mo’Kelly Report is an entertainment journal with a political slant; published weekly at www.eurweb.com. It is meant to inform, infuse and incite meaningful discourse…as well as entertain. The Mo’Kelly Report is syndicated by Blogburst. For more Mo’Kelly, http://www.MrMoKelly.com. Mo’Kelly can be reached at Mo@MrMoKelly.com and he welcomes all commentary.
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