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It's the NBA's great debate.

Kobe Bryant or LeBron James?

Ask 10 Basketball buffs which player is the game's best, and the results could come in split down the middle.

"It's like six in one, a half dozen in the other," said Thunder forward Malik Rose. "What do you like?"

Bryant leads his Los Angeles Lakers into the Ford Center tonight at 7 to face the Thunder. For comparison purposes, James scored 31 points with seven assists, four rebounds and three steals in a 102-91 win over the Thunder in Cleveland's only Ford Center appearance on Dec. 21.

"This is a little bit like the Shaq-Kobe debate," said Ric Bucher, NBA analyst for ESPN and senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. "Shaq was the most dominant force. But Kobe was the best Basketball player. I think it remains the same."

James, at 6-foot-9, 270 pounds, has been compared to a point guard in a power forward's body, a mix between Magic Johnson and Karl Malone. Bryant, 30, is a far less imposing 6-foot-6, 205 pounds and relies on more finesse.

"LeBron is just so physically dominant," said Portland guard Brandon Roy. "His size can get him shots that Kobe's size can't. But Kobe probably still is the most talented or the most skilled player in the game."

From a statistical standpoint, however, James, 24, edges out Bryant. The Cavs star is averaging 28.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists - in a career-low 37.5 minutes. Bryant is averaging 27.6 points 5.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists.

"Kobe had the crown, but LeBron should get it now," said Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge. "He doesn't just score. He can guard, and he can get 10 assists. He's making guys around him better. I think that's what makes him the best guy in the league ... you really can't guard him."

But while James is hailed as the "King," Bryant's got the bling, with three NBA titles under his belt by his 23rd birthday. James has one NBA Finals appearance, a 4-0 sweep by San Antonio in 2007.

"I think at the end of the day it's going to come down to what you've won," said Portland coach Nate McMillan, who coached Bryant and James as an assistant on Team USA last summer. "They talk about who's the greatest player ever to play, and it always goes back to (Bill) Russell because of what he won. If LeBron gets three championships or four championships, then you have to really look at that. But until then, I think Kobe's going to be the man."

While James is regarded as the better rebounder, passer and shot blocker, Bryant, at least for now, maintains his status as a better on-ball defender and the game's most clutch performer.

"Kobe's more of an assassin," said New Orleans forward Rasual Butler. "He can take the game over at any time with his ability to score the ball."

Bryant's will to win is something many Basketball minds also point to as reason he's still the best.

"LeBron's a freak physically. Kobe's a freak mentally," said Roy. "His will to overcome things is amazing.

"Kobe's one of those dudes you can never count out. It's almost one of those things where it'll just be when Kobe steps down and says you can have it. When he's tired of coming back and being Kobe every year, that's probably when LeBron is going to separate and just be in a class by himself."

Lakers at Thunder

→When: 7 tonight

→Where: Ford Center

→TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37)

→Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, 640-AM

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: February 26, 2009


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