This discussion didn't come into play when LeBron James became the number 1 overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft. Crashing a NBA party that was already hosted by superstar Kobe Bryant, who was at the time becoming the most dominant player in the league (despite having Shaquille O'Neal this one last time).
And it didn't even become a problem when James at a significant point in his career decided to leave his hometown team, and join forces with Dwyane Wade, & Chris Bosh in the infamous ESPN special "The Decision". However three things happened this season that impacted a match up that not only we want to see, but one that quite honestly needs to happen before this era of basketball is complete.
Point blank- Kobe Bryant, & LeBron James have to battle in a NBA Finals before it is all said and done in either of their careers. It's been the dream match up for many of us, and something we have all looked forward to but never put much weight on. So what three major things happened this 2013 NBA Season that sparked me to write this article:
1) MJ Spoke: Michael Jordan widely considered to be the GOAT (basically 99% of NBA Fans) received a good amount of media attention this year for his 50th birthday. Highlights of his sensational, & championship-filled career were played over, and over. Many of his old teammates, and old opponents were quoted saying various things in honor of the GOAT's 50th birthday.
Even conspiracies of a comeback for 23 found it's way unto the media scene. However nothing that came out of that was as impactful as MJ's one on one interview with esteemed sports broadcaster Ahmad Rashad as he got MJ's opinions on his career, legacy, and the state of the NBA today. In the piece Jordan was asked to choose between Kobe or LeBron. Stating how dominant LeBron is today, the legend still went with Kobe stating "5 beats 1" in regards to the ring count advantage Bryant has over James.
Now is MJ wrong for going with Bryant? No, it's his opinion one that many take today. However it's not just 1 now, as LeBron James who recently led his Miami Heat to their second straight title win is in position to not only tie MJ's ring count (of 6), but surpass Kobe's (5). MJ's comments created more than a stir on the social media market, and sports talk shows ran with this as much as they could.
LeBron fired back in his comments during all-star weekend stating rings aren't the only way to determine who's better than who. And that's a point that isn't that far fetched to believe, as 9 players in NBA history have more rings than MJ himself the top being Bill Russell with 11. However this argument of Kobe vs LeBron has to be settled on the court, and MJ's comments made that even more apparent.
2) The Mamba's injury: Kobe Bryant this season suffered a late season ending injury as his Lakers had just snuck their way into the playoffs (8th seed). Combined with the fact that the Laker front office clearly made a mistake with the coaching decision to begin the season (Mike D'Antoni > Phil Jackson?), and what had seemed to be the free agency move of the summer wasn't exactly working out as they planned in superstar center Dwight Howard Kobe's season was already near turmoil. However his play kept the Lakers alive, and losing him was the biggest hit they could take at that point.
However this injury impacts more than just their immediate future, Kobe himself said his time is coming close to an end. Earlier this year in an interview with NBA insider Stephen A. Smith Kobe gave himself at least 2-3 years of ring chasing until he retires.
He desperately wants ring number 6, he wants to tie the man he molded his game after in Michael Jordan, and if any other player today is going to be in his way if Bryant should get there it's LeBron James who has led the Miami Heat to 3 straight NBA Finals appearances.
Kobe seems to be in good spirits about his rehab status (incase you don't follow him on Twitter/Instagram), and let's hope LA brings him back to a championship worthy roster. That's the only way we'll get this match up seeing as how the Western Con. is so deep.
3) The King wins..again: Coming fresh off of his 2nd NBA Championship, & NBA Finals MVP award LeBron James at just 28 years old is in position to surpass Kobe Bryant, and tie/surpass Michael Jordan in the ring count. Now that also depends on his team situation going forward, health, and continued production. With that said We've already seen LeBron in 4 NBA Finals, and in those some very esteemed opponents such as: Tim Duncan (twice), Kevin Durant, Tony Parker (twice) and Dirk Nowitzki all future Hall of Famers in the eyes of NBA fans, and media.
However Kobe Bryant is the guy LeBron is looking to surpass most of all besides Michael Jordan. Bryant, and James are the only two people of our basketball era who we think of when discussing who is the closest to being MJ. And I agree, are these two better than Jordan? No, but who knows what may happen over time.
However are these two the closest players we've seen on the court in terms of dominance in comparison to MJ? Yes. And that is why they have to battle for at least one championship. When the NBA had Magic Johnson, & Larry Bird battling for hardware they were two guys at an elite, and all time level...it was great for basketball.
LeBron is climbing that all timers list very fast, and to possibly have two of the best in our generation (and of all time) go head to head in a championship atmosphere would be one for the ages.
Being a die hard NBA fan I pray for this one. LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant have continued the basketball excellence Michael Jordan left. And who knows who will step up after their time is done, and carry the league to even greater heights. However I do know their time is not up, and this match up is one not only the fans need, but the NBA itself needs as well.