My brother Charlie, his wife Mitzi Tan, and her entire family, are now in Los Angeles. They’re spending Christmas there. While that may be a terrific experience (earlier, they spent “White Christmas” for a few days in Winnipeg, Canada with it’s -14 degree weather), my younger brother isn’t all-too-happy. The reason: He could not get tickets to watch the most-awaited game of the entire NBA regular season.
LA vs. Cleveland. West against East. The Lakers opposite The Cavs. The 7-foot-1 Shaq standing tall versus the 7-foot-tall Pau Gasol. And, of course, LeBron James face-to-face with Kobe Bryant.
Sure, there are plenty of rivalries. Manny vs. Money (sayang!). Rafa vs. Roger. In Manila, there’s Ateneo vs. La Salle. In the past, there were these mano-a-mano fights: Ali-Frazier, Magic-Bird, Nicklaus-Palmer, Chamberlain-Russell, Yankees-Red Sox.
Today, if there’s one rivalry I’d like to see evolve it’s the one I saw yesterday morning in Sky Cable’s Channel 12 (RPN). One wore a white jersey with gold trimmings; the other had a Superman-like vest that was dark blue in color. The arena? Staples Center. The movie? “NBA Christmas Special.”
For outside the NBA Play-offs, there is no bigger game—make that “games,” because there were a total of five—than the ones held every Dec. 25th. With the LA-Cleveland hoopla that I saw on TV, what I found most interesting was Shaq against his “best friend,” Kobe. In one instance in the third quarter, KB drove down the lane and rammed straight into the leviathan. But no foul was called! And Kobe was mad. What a sight to see them both.
LeBron vs. Kobe? Mr. Bryant scored more points (35 versus James’ 26) but one man’s output is less significant than the team’s score. At the final buzzer, the Cavs upset the Lakers, 102-87. But even more upset were the LA fans (the audience included Hollywood stars like Sylvester Stallone, Danny DeVito, Snoop Dogg, Anna Kournikova) who threw yellow foam hands to the court—including one water bottle (reminds us of the Old Cebu Coliseum days, right?).
Back to the one-one-one debate: Do I favor LeBron over Kobe? Yes I do. Because while I don’t dislike both jersey numbers 23 and 24, I favor LeBron more. Maybe because he’s less “hambog.” Maybe because LBJ’s quieter and less expressive than the “It’s me! Me! Me!” Kobe.
What do the experts think? Who’s better?
Kurt Helin, in his blog Forum Blue & Gold, says, “If you love basketball, you can (and should) love them both. Kobe and LeBron are different players with different styles. LeBron is just a freak of nature, blessed like no other and he is just tapping into that. Kobe is more polished, someone who loves the work of perfecting his game… I love to watch them both for those reasons, for LeBron’s bull-like drives to the basket, for Kobe’s amazing balance on the pull-up jumper.”
Josh Tucker of the Silver Screen and Roll blog writes: “LeBron James is the MVP; Kobe Bryant is the better player. Both are lockdown defenders, fantastic passers, capable of scoring or facilitating and excellent leaders of their teams. The primary differences lie in each player’s individual offensive repertoires, and the key here is the versatility, polish, and completeness of each player’s game.
“LeBron James is a player with one primary, ultra-developed offensive skill: his ability to get to the hoop for layups and dunks… Kobe Bryant doesn’t have a single dominant skill that far outweighs all others, like LeBron does. Instead, he has the most complete, versatile, and polished skill set in the NBA… Simply put, the difference between the two boils down to unprecedented raw athleticism versus unequaled, finely honed skill.”
Henry Abbott, in TrueHoop, comments, “LeBron James’ biggest advantage over Kobe Bryant is his size. That height and weight—with that agility, speed, leadership, and skill—is a combination we have really never seen before. It is why he blows away just about every statistical analysis.”
To me, this White Christmas, I’m dreaming of an NBA final: Cavs vs Lakers.