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Lakers at Thunder: Who’s better? Kobe or LeBron?

BY DARNELL MAYBERRY Published: February 24, 2009
It’s the NBA’s great debate.

Kobe Bryant or LeBron James?

Ask 10 basketball buffs which player is the game’s best, and the results could come in split down the middle.

"It’s like six in one, a half dozen in the other,” said Thunder forward Malik Rose. "What do you like?”

Bryant leads his Los Angeles Lakers into the Ford Center tonight at 7 to face the Thunder. For comparison purposes, James scored 31 points with seven assists, four rebounds and three steals in a 102-91 win over the Thunder in Cleveland’s only Ford Center appearance on Dec. 21.

"This is a little bit like the Shaq-Kobe debate,” said Ric Bucher, NBA analyst for ESPN and senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. "Shaq was the most dominant force. But Kobe was the best basketball player. I think it remains the same.”

James, at 6-foot-9, 270 pounds, has been compared to a point guard in a power forward’s body, a mix between Magic Johnson and Karl Malone. Bryant, 30, is a far less imposing 6-foot-6, 205 pounds and relies on more finesse.

"LeBron is just so physically dominant,” said Portland guard Brandon Roy. "His size can get him shots that Kobe’s size can’t. But Kobe probably still is the most talented or the most skilled player in the game.”

From a statistical standpoint, however, James, 24, edges out Bryant. The Cavs star is averaging 28.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists — in a career-low 37.5 minutes. Bryant is averaging 27.6 points 5.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists.

"Kobe had the crown, but LeBron should get it now,” said Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge. "He doesn’t just score. He can guard, and he can get 10 assists. He’s making guys around him better. I think that’s what makes him the best guy in the league .