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Caught in the Web: Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James and other Lakers links

January 20, 2010 | 10:57 am


With the Lakers and Cavaliers meeting Thursday for the second time this season, let the LeBron James-Kobe Bryant debate continue (with possibly new puppet commercials). 

ESPN's Bill Simmons has already taken that step, with the Sports Guy vividly describing in 3,006 words his utmost admiration for James' theatrics. Simmons paints James' warm-ups before the Clippers game on Saturday -- essentially his own dunk contest with between-the-leg slams and alley-oop lobs -- as a glimpse the excitement LeBron would provide if he became a Clipper.

I was at the game too. When I sat in my seat 30 minutes before tipoff, the Staples Center crowd was so captivated by LBJ's dunks that it nearly drowned out Clipper Darrell's chants nearby. To clarify, though, I was there as a basketball fan, not as an LBJ fan. 

Nonetheless, Simmons uses that anecdote to argue that LeBron as a Clipper would take L.A.'s love from Mamba because of his winning personality and flair to always perform. 

"Know this: The Kobe-LeBron argument is dead. It's over," Simmons writes. "LeBron James is the best basketball player alive." 

While I appreciate what both Kobe and LeBron bring to the game, I agree with the Orange County Register's Janis Carr that this debate shouldn't hinge on personality traits, but accomplishments. Carr took issue with Simmons' analysis, and shares an argument that Lakers fans will surely appreciate: "Bryant might not be the lovable, warm and fuzzy type the writer is seeking, but until James wins a title, the argument stands."

More Lakers links (after the jump)

-- Veer any anger you have toward Simmons (or me for posting his LBJ story) into love for comedian George Lopez. He settles the LeBron-Kobe debate to ESPN Los Angeles' Arash Markazi: "LeBron James is great, but Kobe Bryant is the greatest basketball player ever. Kobe is a four-time NBA champion, an MVP, 11-time All-Star. His credentials don't lie." Mamba said Saturday at an event to promote his new shoe, the Nike Zoom Kobe V, that his basketball credentials are partly attributed to his playing soccer and using mixed martial arts.

-- Although the LBJ-Kobe debate forever lingers, this item is not debatable: jersey sales. The NBA says Mamba's No. 24 is the league's top-selling jersey since the start of the season, and LBJ is in second place. Lakers forward Pau Gasol isn't too far behind, with El Spaniard ranked No. 10.

A podcast with ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamanetzky and Lakers legend Jerry West is a must listen. Read into this what you will, but I found West's comments on Bryant to be interesting: "It's fun for me to watch him play, and know I was a small part of his life. He and I, we don't interact anymore but I do, from a distance, I admire him greatly."

-- With the Lakers (32-9) completing half of the NBA's 82 regular-season game schedule, the Daily News' Elliott Teaford hands out his midseason report card. Aside from that fact that it's unlikely the Lakers will break the Chicago Bulls' 72-10 regular-season record, the Lakers should be proud of displaying these grades on the refrigerator.

-- Fox Sports' Randy Hill wonders aloud whether there are any Western Conference foes who can contend with the Lakers (short answer: no).

--It appears Shaquille O'Neal isn't a fan of this year's slam dunk contest nominees, including Lakers guard Shannon Brown. Shaq tells the Plain Dealer's Brian Windhorst that he will persuade LeBron to participate in the dunk contest only if "Vince Carter comes back out, if Kobe [Bryant] comes back out and if another big name comes back out. And if we can get a big prize and half of the money to go to the people of Haiti and the other half to the winner."

-- With the Feb. 18 trading deadline approaching, Hoopsworld's Eric Pincus lays out his proposals for how the Lakers can trim down their payroll.

Tweet of the Day: "Can Team E! get any contested rebounds? The #Lakers can't right now!" -- LAMase (710 ESPN's Steve Mason during the Magic's 20-2 run in an eventual loss to the Lakers)

-- Mark Medina

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Photo: Kobe Bryant, left, guards Cleveland's LeBron James during the Cavaliers' 102-87 rout of the Lakers on Christmas. Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press