NBA

Kobe benefits most from LeBron hate

Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant had 33 points Sunday, but the rest of his stat line was feeble.
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Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock writes about the sports world from every angle, including those other writers can't imagine or muster courage to address. His columns are humorous, thought-provoking, agenda-free, honest and unpredictable. E-mail him, follow his Twitter or become a fan of Jason Whitlock on Facebook.

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LOS ANGELES

No one benefits from LeBron hate more than Kobe Bryant.

Hatred of LeBron — more than even Kobe’s five championship rings — is the primary reason Kobe is allowed to delude himself with the notion that he is on equal footing with Magic and Bird and in hot pursuit of Michael Jordan’s legacy.

We sell the false Kobe narrative because it fuels and justifies our disdain for King James. The closer Kobe is to NBA royalty, the more distance James must travel and the more people he must pass to get a seat at the table reserved for Jordan, Magic and Bird. LeBron haters don’t want him anywhere near the NBA’s Lord, Savior and Holy Ghost. LeBron is Judas, in the haters’ mind, the man who betrayed Cleveland. Kobe is Peter, Jordan’s most trusted disciple.

Sunday, inside Staples Center, Kobe spread more of his false gospel. He dropped 33 points in a 93-83 victory over the visiting Heat. His congregation loved it. It was more proof that Kobe is unrivaled in this era, that James and Dwyane Wade are young stars with a long haul if they ever want to be in the same class as Kobe the Great.

“What I have left to accomplish, those players retired a long time ago,” Bryant said Friday night. “At this point my rivals, in terms of what I have left to accomplish, (left the game) when Magic and Michael retired.”

Yep. That’s the delusion LeBron hate empowers.

Well, I don’t hate LeBron or Kobe. I love basketball. I don’t care if Kobe wins eight championships, he’s not on the same level as Jordan, Magic, Bird or even the title-less King James. That’s not hatred of Kobe or the Lakers. It’s an objective statement of fact.

In baseball terms, Kobe Bryant was born on third base and we’re allowing him to act like he hit a grand slam. There is no bigger competitive advantage in sports than playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. Because of the weather, the beach and the entertainment options, an indoor professional sports franchise operating in Los Angeles has no excuse to not stock its roster with the best talent money can buy. It’s not a coincidence the Lakers have been home to Wilt, Kareem and Shaq.

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BATTLE FOR L.A.

The Clippers are challenging the Lakers for supremacy in the City of Angels.

While the Lakers have patiently waited for the opportunity to acquire Dwight Howard, Kobe has had to make do the past few years with two very good 7-footers, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, rather than a once-in-a-decade big man.

Playing alongside mammoth space-eaters, lane-cloggers and rim-defenders the overwhelming majority of his career has given Kobe the freedom to be a one-dimensional all-time great. Kobe is a scorer. Period. He can’t touch Michael Jordan as a defender. Kobe is not in the same zip code as Magic and Bird as a creator and teammate-elevator.

When you compare Kobe’s all-around game to the Lord, Savior and Holy Ghost, he’s completely outclassed. Kobe is a scorer. Period. That’s all he did Sunday. He put 33 points on Shane Battier, a terrific defender. Kobe had a great game. But he also did little else. He had three rebounds, one assist, zero steals or blocks.

Meanwhile, on a day the Heat played without Chris Bosh and on an afternoon when Wade was off his game and fouled out in 31 minutes, LeBron James played the entire 94 feet. He scored 25 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, passed out seven assists, nabbed three steals and blocked two shots.

Given Bosh’s absence and Wade’s miserable play, the Lakers should’ve won by 25. The Heat had no size and James had little help. He defended Gasol, holding him to 11 points. James single-handedly kept Miami in contention.

You put Bynum and Gasol around LeBron James and everyone in the league would expect that team to win a championship. Kobe wants the roster blown up. He’s still upset David Stern stopped the Lakers from acquiring Chris Paul.

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BEST OF TIMES

Bird, Jordan and Magic are among our top 10 players in NBA history.

You give Wade the same rosters Kobe has played with throughout his Los Angeles career, and I guarantee you the Heat win the same number of titles — if not more. If you look at their career numbers, Wade is a better all-around player than Bryant. Wade bests Bryant in field-goal percentage, assists, steals and blocks and is in a virtual tie with Bryant in points per game (25.4 to 25.3) and rebounds (5.3 to 5.2).

Don’t even waste your time comparing Kobe’s averages to Jordan’s, Bird’s, Magic’s and LeBron’s. Kobe isn’t on their level.

I don’t hate Kobe Bryant. I love watching him play. He played a beautiful game Sunday. Kobe is the Jerry West of this era. But let’s stop the blasphemy of elevating Bryant to the same level as the Holy Trinity. Don’t let your hatred of LeBron convince you that Kobe is something he’s clearly not.

Tagged: Lakers, Heat, Magic, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade

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