Shaq on LeBron vs. Kobe debate: 'I'd probably have to go with Kobe'

Lucy Nicholson / REUTERS

Another week, another debate involving LeBron James' place among the game's all-time greats.

This time, though, James is being compared to another still active legend - Kobe Bryant.

And the guy comparing the two once called both teammates.

Bryant's a legend in his own right and one of the fiercest competitors the game has ever seen, and the once-dominant Shaq is entitled to his opinion, but no self-respecting basketball observer can realistically believe James falls short of The Black Mamba anymore - not after everything we've seen from The King.

Here's how their numbers stack up through 12 seasons (through the 2007-08 season for Bryant), when Kobe's championship advantage is only 3-2:

Seasons 1-12 PPG RPG APG TS% PER MVPs Finals appearances
LeBron James 27.3 7.1 6.3 58.1 27.7 4 6
Kobe Bryant 25 5.3 4.6 55.7 23.6 1 5

James at his best is a superior scorer, passer, rebounder, and defender, even boasting a minimal advantage (34.2-34.0) in 3-point shooting through 12 seasons.

Rabid Bryant fans, of course, will argue that their hero has some sort of innate "clutch" gene LeBron doesn't possess. About that ...

Far too often, praising James over Bryant is seen as some slight towards The Mamba. It's not. Bryant is one of the greatest players of his generation. It's just that every shred of evidence - whether empirical or numerical - suggests LeBron has been decisively better.

Killer instinct, though, right Shaq?

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Shaq on LeBron vs. Kobe debate: 'I'd probably have to go with Kobe'
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