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Bleacher report: Who's better, Kobe or LeBron? It's no debate at all.

November 4, 2009 | 12:50 pm

From the Bleacher Report

In the same manner in which Kobe Bryant was unfairly compared to Michael Jordan in the late '90s, the debate continues with LeBron James being similarly compared to Kobe.

Fabforum Some fans and pundits have even had the temerity to go as far as saying that James has already surpassed Bryant as a player.

They reinforce their arguments with statistics and the many milestones that James has accomplished at such an early age. Many of these same milestones are marks that Kobe held until James surpassed them.

There are areas of the game where James holds an advantage over Kobe, most noticeably the physical specimen department, but most arguments are based on the potential of James and not his current accomplishments.

The only problem with gazing into the crystal ball is that sometimes the present intervenes and renders all predictions useless. It's much better to live in the present, and based on that, the James argument doesn't hold up.

While James and Bryant are great players, there are some areas that James has yet to catch up, and in some cases, never will.

The part of LeBron's game that has seen the biggest improvement is on the defensive end. He is still a much better help defender than ball defender, but his man-to-man defense is steadily improving.

As a youngster James was able to rely on his superior athletic ability to mask his shortcomings on the defensive end.  He was simply able to overwhelm opponents with his quickness, size, and strength.

It was clear early in his career that he had the proper defensive principles, but he lacked the technique.  His defensive posture was bad, and he had a habit of crossing his feet instead of sliding them.

James has taken steps to correct this and it's evident in his game, as he has become a better on-ball defender, which helps complement his superior ball-hawking skills.

Kobe had no such problem, as he was an excellent defensive player from the time he entered the league.  His man-to-man skills remain superb, and he has the ability to lock down an opponent almost at will.

Bryant was obviously schooled on the importance of defense and that can in part be attributed to his NBA lineage. He recognized the influence that getting stops has on a game and the way it contributes to  momentum swings.

Conversely, James is a product of the AAU circuit and the various summer leagues, which place a low premium on defense and emphasize the highlight aspect of the game.

Michael Jordan's footprints are all over another aspect of Kobe's game, which is sometimes called the lost art of the mid-range jump shot.

It became the most dangerous weapon in Jordan's arsenal, and Bryant has emulated it to the barest degree. His ability to pull up from anywhere within 18 feet has made Bryant one of the most versatile offensive players in NBA history.

This is the part of LeBron's game that could use the most work, as all of his damage is done either from distance or at the rim, there is hardly any in-between.

A mid-range jumper is something that you have to work at, and the evidence is spread throughout the league, with only a handful of players showing the ability to master it.

Besides being the ultimate student of the game, Bryant is probably one of the most fundamentally sound.  His techniques on both ends of the floor could be used in basketball tutorials.

James is no slouch in the fundamental department, but Bryant is above reproach. I'm not sure if even the most dedicated regimen could put James in Bryant's class, which may be second only to Jordan himself.

I feel that all of the above points are solid, but they can be argued, alas this one can't. The hardware disparity is real and it has grown since James has been in the league.

I have stated that it is fruitless to argue what James may accomplish in the future because we live in the present. The Kobe and Jordan argument would have never started if Kobe was unable to win a ring.

Charles Barkley and Karl Malone are considered two of the best power forwards to play the game, but they are trumped by Tim Duncan, and the argument will always end with the number of rings Duncan is wearing.

Likewise with John Stockton and Magic Johnson. Stockton may hold the assists record, but how many of those assists ever accounted for championships?

This is the final peg on which Kobe hangs his hat. LeBron has the potential to be the greatest player ever, but tomorrow is never promised.

I pay homage to the greatest active player today, who has the game and championships to back it up.  Until LeBron wins a ring he will be relegated to second-hand status.

Hadarii Jones, the Bleacher Report

Photo: Kobe Bryant, right, and LeBron James battle for a rebound in the fourth quarter during a Jan. 27, 2008 game at Staples Center. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times.