Don’t think for a second that those two Bryant blocks on James near the end of the All-Star game weren’t a result of Jordan’s comments and Kobe’s need to assert himself. Maybe deep down, Kobe knows the younger LeBron is more dominant now.
But Bryant was like 45-year-old George Foreman in 1994, knocking out 26-year-old Michael Moorer to win the heavyweight title. Bryant still packed a defensive punch and one-on-one, he wanted to show he could still not only hold his own with LeBron, but also beat him.
It’s difficult to argue that the torch hasn’t passed from Bryant to James, who is six years younger, but if it has, it’s a recent phenomenon. And I’m still pretty certain that with the game on the line, I’d rather the ball in Kobe’s hands than LeBron’s.
On a higher level, I also believe that talk of LeBron being better than Jordan is incorrect … but I will say the same thing about James that I have said in the past about Bryant.
Both of them are in Jordan’s neighborhood. They don’t have the biggest houses or the nicest properties, but they do live in the area.
I do feel confident that in the near and distant future, however, greatness will still be defined by relating it to Jordan. We will not say that the greatest singer of the era is the LeBron James of music. We will not say the greatest actor is the Kobe Bryant of film.
We will continue to describe superiority by saying such people are the Michael Jordan of (whatever).
So my official assessment is this:
Kobe Bryant was the Michael Jordan of the NBA’s first decade of this century.
LeBron James is currently the Michael Jordan of basketball on this planet.
And the search for the next Michael Jordan will continue because another one has yet to be found.
Jan Hubbard has written about basketball since 1976 and worked in the NBA league office for eight years between media stints. Follow him on Twitter at @whyhub. For Hubbard’s archive from SheridanHoops.com, click here.