Kobe vs. LeBron: Who’s better?

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.

Johnvic and Boy on KB24, Phil and ‘Cry Baby’

Two basketball tacticians I conferred with yesterday. JOHNVIC GULLAS, whose family owns the University of the Visayas (UV), stands over 6 feet tall and, during his schooldays, shot eight triples for Sacred Heart (Boys) in one game and nine three-pointers in a Velez College intrams contest. ELMER “BOY” CABAHUG is a celebrity. A former PBA star, he has since led the UV Green Lancers, as head coach, to eight straight CESAFI titles. Here’s my Q & A with the two:


(Emmanuel Dunand/AP)

ON L.A. Gullas: The Lakers played the Magic so well that I was not surprised they dominated. Look at Game 3 when the Magic shot a record 75% (first half) but won by only four, 108-104. That shows you that for the Magic to win they have to play at an extraordinary level. The Lakers’ big men exposed Howard’s lack of a low post play. The Lakers defense on the perimeter vs. the Magic was excellent, preventing them from hitting open shots (with Game 3’s exception). Cabahug: It’s all about experience. Orlando is new in the Finals. The crucial games were 2, 3 and 4. The Magic had chances and it could have been 3-1 in their favor. But what LA always does is to ‘take the last shot.’ They control the game’s final outcome, win or lose. They were also very composed in their execution. Their experience made the difference.

Kobe stumbles, Orlando revives Magic touch


Last February, Sports Illustrated conducted a survey where 190 NBA players were asked, “With the game on the line, which NBA player would you want to take the last shot?” Dwayne Wade got two percent; Paul Pierce got three percent, same with Chauncey Billups and LeBron James. Who received a staggering 76 percent? You guessed it right: Kobe Bean Bryant.

But, as we all saw yesterday, with less than 30 seconds left in the game clock and Orlando Magic leading by two, Kobe dribbled left, then right, penetrated—then he fumbled! From a potential game-tying two-pointer, he lost the ball… and the ballgame. Worse, minutes earlier, he missed a free throw. Not once but five bungled free throws out of 10 attempts. And he’s the man proclaimed by 76 percent of his peers as the game’s “best closer?”

Orlando vs. LA? Cebuano NBA fans choose

Yayoy Alcoseba: LA, 4-2. They have Kobe and Pau Gasol plus Phil Jackson who has 9 titles. Also, their experience in the Finals last yr was impt. Orlando is good but not in the same caliber. Howard can also be contained by Gasol. Plus, none of Magic players have any Finals experience.

Bimbo Bael: I’m for Orlando, the underdog. Who would have thought they’d make it to the finals! Now that they have, the momentum is on their side.

John Cheu: LA in 6 or 7. Kobe & d deep bench of LA will make d difference. But Coach Van Gundy is a great strategist and will give Phil a hard time.

Chester Cokaliong: Orlando. Have never been a Laker fan. Howard, MVP, because he is their Heart & Soul. He is unstoppable inside while the Lakers has Gasol as a go-to guy in the absence of Kobe.


(Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

Near drowning, Kobe rescues the Lakers

Yesterday, like many of you, I watched part of the Lakers-Nuggets game. From start to near-the-finish, Denver led. They led 5-0 after the opening tip, led by 13 points during the First Quarter, led by 11 at half time, led by 7 points with 7:01 left. But, as we all know, the term led during the game is nowhere near the same as led at the end of the game. Because in sports, the beginning and middle are essential—but what’s most imperative and paramount is The End.

Take swimming. Many a backstroke swimmer has led Michael Phelps at the start only for the Olympic gold medalist to overtake in the end. The same with cycling. A few overeager pedalists sprint to the front when the starting gun is fired—only to evaporate towards the finish line.


Which brings me to Kobe. Is there any ballplayer who’s a better closer? Who, when the seconds are ticking and the enemy is bloodying you, stands up front, lifts his sword like King Arthur and bludgeons his way to victory?