Larry Bird is weighing into the whole Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James debate. Kind of. Actually, his nuance is kind of refreshing, even if he appears to prefer hypothetically suiting up with Bryant over James. In an interview with Bill Simmons of Grantland, Bird spoke of the perks of playing with either two former MVPs:
"Well, probably Kobe, because of the fact that ... well, of course he wouldn't have been shooting as much as he does now ... but his desire to win, his dedication, to always get better, uh, and he's just, he's just tough," Bird said. "He's just a tough cat.
"But, if you want to have fun, like I did with Bill Walton, play with LeBron. It would have probably been more fun to play with LeBron, but if you want to win and win and win, it's Kobe. Not that LeBron's not a winner, just that [Kobe's] mindset is to go into every practice, every game, to get better."
Larry's right. Kobe is absolutely insane when it comes to competitive drive. And, if you'll allow for the easy joke, he'd probably be the only NBA player to ever hold Larry Bird below 20 points on average, mainly because Kobe would be shooting so dang much (to use a Bird-ism). Of course, James played a full month of basketball after Bryant's Lakers were swept out of the playoffs last year, so let's not go too over the top with the part about Kobe always being a sure winner. At least James' Heat took two games from Dallas.
It's the practice mention that cannot be questioned. James' game has grown up quite a bit since he entered the NBA in 2003, but Bryant's growth has been through the roof. He frustrates at times because you know he knows better, especially while taking those 20-footers, but his ball-handling and defense and post game and one-time obsession with the triangle offense (which predated Phil Jackson's time with the Lakers) all came from his ridiculous practice habits. Habits that continue to this day, even if he has to sit out the odd Lakers practice due to the knee and wrist injuries he's gutting through.
He still digs 'em, as he told ESPN's Colin Cowherd on Tuesday (via Sports Radio Interviews):
"I actually enjoy that more than the actual games because the journey is always more significant I think. The practices when no one is looking and that sort of stuff, that's always been more fun to me. The preparation has always been more enjoyable."
With that in place, LeBron James is averaging 29 points on 55 percent shooting, with a combined 15.1 rebounds/assists and 2.4 steals/blocks for a team with the NBA's second-best record, while playing without Dwyane Wade for nine games.
Larry knows what's up. It's a win-win.
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- Kobe Bryant
- LeBron James
- Larry Bird