The reason? Bryant’s five championships compared to James’ one.
“Five beats one every time I look at it,” Jordan said. “And not that (James) won’t get five. He may get more than that, but five is bigger than one.”
Well, I have got to say that I was disappointed by Jordan’s answer; not because he chose Bryant over Lebron, but because he made it solely on championships won.
But he’s not the only one!
Here’s Magic Johnson’s take on the comparison back in October 2011 (before Lebron James’ first championship):
“Everybody’s always asking, ‘Who is better between Kobe and Lebron?’ I’m like, Are you kidding me? I’m like, you’re kidding me… Kobe, five championships; Lebron, zero.”
It annoys and frustrates me when people use championships as the end all be all when it comes to judging NBA players.
First of all, basketball is a team sport. It’s not golf or tennis or boxing. Winning championships in the NBA still requires a team effort. Even the greatest players need a strong supporting cast to achieve the ultimate prize.
So it’s unfair to say that Kobe is better than Lebron because of championships won when for the most part Kobe Bryant has had a better cast to work with throughout his career. Look it up! Kobe had Shaquille O’Neal during Shaq’s prime. Lebron had Shaquille O’Neal when he was already past it.
You would think that Jordan and Magic would know better.
It may sound preposterous now, but for years (before the three-peats) there were many who considered Magic Johnson and Larry Bird better players than Michael Jordan simply because they won championships and they didn’t. My contention to those statements would always be to take a look at their teams. Magic had Kareem and James Worthy on his team – two number one overall picks and Hall of Famers. Larry Bird played with arguably the greatest front-court of all time with Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, as well as Dennis Johnson (again, all Hall of Famers). Michael did not start winning championships until he had a better cast around him, lead of course by Scottie Pippen.
Still, even if Jordan had won less than six championships I would still consider him better than Bird or Magic because he had less flaws in his game and he was far and away a superior defender to those two.
Sports Unbiased had a Writers’ Block where we selected our top five centers in NBA history. Most of our panel had Wilt Chamberlain (he of the two championship rings) over Bill Russell and his eleven championships.
Where was the outrage? Bill Russell has won more rings than anyone else. Shouldn’t he be the greatest center and player of all-time?
Perhaps the fact that Russell played with better teammates and for a legendary coach (Red Auerbach) has something to do with it. Wilt had to do more to ensure that his team won games than Russell had to do for his.
Perhaps it’s because of Wilt’s overwhelming statistics, numerous records and individual accolades makes it difficult to place anyone else above him.
Which brings me to my second point: we cannot judge NBA greatness exclusively on championships!
Championships are just one barometer (though it is an important one) that should be used to define greatness. There are other barometers that must be factored into the equation.
For instance, Lebron James has already won three MVP awards and seems headed for a fourth. Only Kareem, Russell, Chamberlain and Jordan have won at least four MVPs. Kobe Bryant, for all his greatness, only has one. Why can’t we use that to say that Lebron is better than Kobe?
Being great in the NBA (or any team sport for that matter) is a combination of several qualities. So let’s include those other qualities when defining or comparing greatness instead of just sticking with one.