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LeBron James vs Kobe Bryant: A Comparative Analysis between two NBA GOATs

When it comes to down to debating who had the better NBA career between high-caliber players such as LeBron vs. Jordan, Magic and Bird, Wilt and Russell, Oscar and Jerry West, and other individual comparisons of the greatest players in the history of the game, much of it comes down to a matter of personal opinion.

One’s personal preference will certainly impact a comparison between Lebron James and Kobe Bryant. Especially because Kobe Bryant has very passionate, oft-biased fans and despite his obvious greatness, there’s a lot of disdain for LeBron James.

That said both are undoubtedly NBA legends that have had incredibly successful careers and with impressive statistics, accolades, and accomplishments. We have our opinion, but let’s examine the impact of Lebron James and Kobe Bryant to determine which player had the better career.

Similar Career Trajectory

When both players were active, there were comparisons often drawn between LeBron James and Kobe Bryant… but who is the best? Everyone has an opinion, even the basketball betting fans in Vegas would place their money on one or will all have their own opinions – but let’s see how they actually compare on paper.

Both LeBron and Kobe skipped the traditional college route and went directly to the NBA from high school. Bryant was drafted with the 13th pick by the Charlotte Hornets but was traded to the LA Lakers. Even in a draft with several amazing college players LeBron James was chosen with the No.1 pick in 2003 by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kobe Bryant’s career got off to a pretty slow start where there were as many lows as there were highs. During his rookie season, Bryant played in 71 out of 82 games and averaging 7.6 points per game on 41.7% from the field. Kobe’s career wouldn’t really blossom until his third year when he nearly averaged 20 points on a much-improved shooting percentage.

Meanwhile, LeBron flew out of the starting block. In his Rookie season, he boasted 21 PPG and he played almost as many playing minutes in one season as Bryant did in his first two years.

Winning and Championships

Fans of Kobe Bryant will say that he has won more NBA championships and that should certainly factor into the equation. However Kobe has won only one more than LeBron; helping to bring five NBA championship banners to the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron won four NBA championships with three different teams: the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavs and Lakers.

During his career, teams with Kobe on the team managed to have a win percentage of .621. While LeBron’s career isn’t over, his overall winning percentage outdoes Bryant’s by nearly 3 percentage points .650. Over a 15 year career, those three percentage points equals approximately 36 more wins.

Career Awards and Accomplishments

In part because LeBron has had much more extended career, James boasts more individual awards and honors, but we shouldn’t diminish his accomplishments. The fact is, his longevity is a large part of his greatness and having a long consistent career is one of the biggest factors when we discuss legacy.

He has been selected to the All-NBA First Team 16 times, the All-Defensive First Team five times, and has been named to the All-Star team 18 times. Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, has been selected to the All-NBA First Team 11 times, the All-Defensive First Team nine times, and has been named to the All-Star team 18 times.

Kobe vs. LeBron: Achievements
Player Titles FMVPs MVPs All-Star All-NBA ROY All-Def
Kobe Bryant 5 2 1 18 15 No 12
LeBron James 4 4 4 18 18 Yes 5

The Numbers

We’ve established that Lebron James and Kobe Bryant are two of the most accomplished players in the history of the NBA. Thought their career, they’ve developed reputations. LeBron is known as the better, more all-around player while Kobe is known for his scoring prowess and cutthroat competitiveness.

Yet with career averages of 27.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists per game and 48% from the field, James has better numbers in nearly every offensive category. That’s better than Bryant’s career averages of 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 45% from the field.

LeBron James

● Average 27.6 points per game
● Average 7.2 rebounds per game
● Average 6.9 assists per game
● 48% field goal percentage
● 33% three-point percentage
Average 40 minutes per game

Kobe Bryant Stats

● Average 25.4 points per game
● Average 5.3 rebounds per game
● Average 4.7 assists per game
● 45%% field goal percentage
34% three-point percentage
Average 36 minutes per game.

Even in the statistical areas where one would think Bryant would dominate, LeBron outperforms Kobe here too. Kobe has led the league in scoring twice to LeBron’s one time, but LeBron has led the league in assists once to Kobe’s zero. On Kobe’s side, the Black Mamba has more memorable individual scoring performances and outbursts than LeBron including Bryant’s 81 point game. LeBron’s career high is 61 points.

Impact on the Game

Both Lebron James and Kobe Bryant have had a significant impact on the game of basketball. Lebron James is widely considered to be one of the best players of all time and has been compared to Michael Jordan. He is known for his versatility, strength, and basketball IQ. He has also been a role model off the court and has used his platform to speak out on social and political issues.

Kobe Bryant is also considered one of the greatest players of all time and has been compared to Michael Jordan. He was known for his fierce competitiveness and work ethic. He is also known for his scoring ability, particularly his ability to hit clutch shots. Kobe has been a role model on and off the court.

LeBron has had the better NBA career

Lebron James and Kobe Bryant are both legends of the game of basketball and both have had incredibly successful NBA careers. Both players have statistics 99.9% of NBA players would envy not to mention the accolades and impact they’ve had on the court and for the culture. When it comes down to it, it’s a matter of personal preference as to who had the better career, but if you look at the data, LeBron James has had the better NBA career than Kobe Bryant.

Outside of Kobe having one more NBA championship and several more All-Defensive Team nods, LeBron has the better numbers statistically across all the major categories including points, assists, rebounds, blocks, steals and FG%. James also has four league MVPs to Bryant’s one, and four Finals MVPs to Kobe’s two. LeBron has a better winning percentage and by the end of his playing career, he’ll have likely surpassed 40,000 career points and lept Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league’s all-time leading scorer.

Not only that, these play out when NBA experts discuss the greatest NBA player of all-time. The consensus on these lists often have LeBron in the top three players of all-time (usually 1-2 with Michael Jordan) whereas Kobe hangs in the 8-15 range.

Considering all these different factors, the comparison at first may feel comparable, but if you look at which player has had the more impressive achievements, better numbers (both averages and totals), and impacted winning the most, the numbers don’t lie: LeBron James has had a much better career than Kobe Bryant.

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