Ever since LeBron James came into the NBA in 2003 the debate has waged on. Who is better, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? For some, it’s a matter of championships and for others it’s purely personal preference. But for NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird, it’s all about winning.
In a recent interview Bird said that he would choose Kobe Bryant when asked who (Lebron James or Kobe Bryant) he would prefer to play with.
“Well, probably Kobe, because of the fact that … well, of course he wouldn’t have been shooting as much as he does now … but his desire to win, his dedication, to always get better, uh, and he’s just, he’s just tough,” Bird said. “He’s just a tough cat.
“But, if you want to have fun, like I did with Bill Walton, play with LeBron. It would have probably been more fun to play with LeBron, but if you want to win and win and win, it’s Kobe. Not that LeBron’s not a winner, just that [Kobe's] mindset is to go into every practice, every game, to get better.”
Did Bird make the right choice? Bryant does have five NBA titles and is arguably the most relentless player to don a professional basketball uniform since Michael Jordan. Even with that, Bird’s decision seems a bit off-key and here’s why. Kobe’s drive is commendable but it isn’t enough.
If you look at Kobe’s game his work ethic doesn’t make the Lakers a better team. It makes Kobe better, but not the team better. When Magic Johnson played with the Lakers he was the best player in the game because he made his fellow Laker players the best team in the game. No one would deny the fact that if Bird and Magic had ever teamed up they would have been unstoppable. LeBron James is a more athletic Magic Johnson, so the same would apply with a one-two punch of James and Bird. Right?
On the other hand with Kobe and Bird on the same team it would be more of a love-hate relationship; a lot like Shaq and Kobe when they played together. Both Bird and Kobe are closers and need the ball in their hands to truly be effective. Granted, Bird was a better distributor than Bryant but getting teammates involved was secondary for him and has never been a high priority in Kobe’s game.
So if Larry Bird’s true intention behind his choice was winning then he should have chosen “the Chosen One.” In the same interview Bird admitted that James is the best player in the league but mocked his desire to team up with James by saying it would be “fun.” If you have the opportunity to play with the best player in the NBA wouldn’t you take it? If you’re Larry Bird why not choose LeBron over Kobe as their games would complement one another better than a Bird-Kobe pairing.
Maybe Bird’s decision was based more on the era that he played in and which of the two superstars’ mentalities would have thrived back in his day. If that was the case, then Bird indeed made the right call by choosing the hard-working Bryant. But if not…I don’t get it.
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