It's the argument that never seems to die, no matter how many times it takes place. And the LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant discussion got even more insufferable on Wednesday morning, with Michael Jordan himself handing Kobe fans ammunition in the debate over who is the better player all-time.
Asked by an attendee at his Flight School camp if LeBron had passed Kobe on his all-time list, Jordan's answer was a fairly emphatic no.
"Would I rank LeBron over Kobe in terms of best of all time? No," Jordan said. "There's something about five that beats three. He may be better than that, but Kobe won five championships, although [LeBron] has been to seven."
It probably shouldn't come as a surprise that Jordan's answer fell back on the ring count, as it does for a lot of former players. If you watch Inside The NBA on a regular basis, you'll see that even former greats like Charles Barkley have their accomplishments degraded by lesser players, simply because they were never able to win a title during their careers. Kenny Smith was not even in the same universe as Barkley as a player, but he lets the jokes fly constantly about Chuck not getting his ring, even as they celebrate his career.
The problem here is that championships are a team achievement, and only one of these guys got to play with Shaquille O'Neal in his prime. Once you expand the discussion beyond "rings," the argument looks a lot more decisive for LeBron, who has out-passed and out-rebounded Kobe for his career in nearly 300 fewer games, and could quite easily pass him in points as well, provided he produces consistently in the twilight of his career.
But really, it's a disservice to both players to degrade them with the other guy's accomplishments. Both are among the best players the sport of basketball has ever seen, and each guy has achieved things the other hasn't. They're wildly different players, for better and worse.
In any case, Jordan really hasn't shied away from controversial topics at his camp this week. He finally gave LaVar Ball the roasting he deserved, and now he's joining the rest of us in assembling his all-time greats list. Next up: his thoughts on universal healthcare and how to solve the Israel/Palestine conflict. Stay tuned!
You can watch him discuss Kobe vs. LeBron in the beginning of the video up top.