While LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, there has been lots of talk about who is better -- James or Michael Jordan. Before James can go up against the greatness of Air Jordan, he needs to get through someone he actually played against, Kobe Bryant. It would have been nice if they had faced off against one another in the playoffs, but that never happened, so it will have to come down to the numbers.

Rings

On the face of it, Kobe Bryant wins this category easily five rings to three.

Bryant has appeared in the NBA Finals seven times with the Los Angeles Lakers while James is now there for his eighth time. A deeper look will show that James won three Finals Most Valuable Player Awards and Bryant only took home two. Bryant also had the benefit of playing with another all-time great, Shaquille O'Neal, and it was the Big Aristotle who took home the Finals MVP trophy in Kobe's first three championships.

Even though Kobe never met a shot he didn't like to take, he still averaged two points less per playoff game than LeBron.

LeBron also leads in rebounds, assists and steals per playoff game. The shooting percentages also favor James in the playoffs, though not as decisively. James leads in field goal and three point percentage, while the edge goes to Bryant when it comes to free throws.

Awards

When it comes to regular season Most Valuable Player Awards it is a slam dunk for James column as he has won the award four times and Bryant has just one. Bryant finished second one other time, but even giving credit for finishing second strengthens the case of James as he has finished second twice.

Defensively, Kobe gets the nod in the awards game as he was named to the All NBA Defensive First Team 11 times to only five times for LeBron.

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Intangibles

If you aren't a fan of the Lakers, Cavaliers or the Miami Heat, then the type of basketball you enjoy watching may decide which side of this debate you fall on. If you like a game with style and grace you would probably lean more towards Kobe. If you enjoy brute strength then LeBron is your man.

Bryant was undoubtedly more of a stone cold killer on the floor. He didn't just want to beat you, he wanted to embarrass you and make you regret ever taking the floor. James was better at bringing out the best of those around him.

The verdict

In the end, LeBron James is the winner in this battle. He may be short on rings, but he still has time to win one or two more. Most of the other numbers come out in his favor, and he is still compiling impressive numbers. James is in the top five all time and Bryant is probably in the top ten, so they aren't that far apart. Next up for LeBron is Michael Jordan.

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