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In the world of basketball, certain players will always be spoken of with reverence. Michael Jordan, for example, usually sits atop GOAT debates. While he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, LeBron James has played his way into that conversation. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, you could argue, doesn’t receive the respect he deserves. Dwight Howard, however, believes someone was more skilled than any of those men: Kobe Bryant.

Do those sound like fighting words designed to kick off a First Take-style debate? Allow the big man to explain his perspective, and you might feel a bit differently.

Ready? Let’s break it down.

Dwight Howard addressed the difference between LeBron James and Kobe Bryant before paying the latter man a high compliment

During his time on the hardwood, Dwight Howard suited up alongside Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. During a recent appearance on the All the Smoke podcast, the center was asked to compare the two legends.

“They two different people,” he explained. “Kobe’s, I always felt like Kobe was like Batman. You know what I’m saying? Just this, he by himself … Then, you know, Lebron’s like Captain America. That’s like Lebron. LeBron is always, he want everyone to be around, you know what I’m saying? He wants to have fun. He wants to dance before the games and put on his music, and Kobe’s just locked in. He don’t say nothing. He got the basketball, and he dribbling the heavy ball before the game.”

Then, Howard got to the subject of pure skill. In his mind, that category isn’t a contest.

I think Kobe, like, is the most skilled out of all the players, as far as pure skill. Shooting. … Just thinking about it, like he could do all that. Like everything that Jordan did, I feel like he just multiplied it. And people mad at him for doing it, like, man, why? You don’t ever try to break the wheel. You see what works, and then you use that and make it work for you. So that’s what Kobe did, and he did it with the best player ever. Like he did everything he did and made it better. And, you know, even watching him practice, like, some things that he was doing, I was like, “Why’s he doing it?” Like one day, I saw him getting his fingers stretched. I’m like, “Why is he getting his fingers stretched?” … I guess it was when he shot his jump shot, so to be smooth every time. So it’s just like little things like that. Like, where did he learn that from?

Dwight Howard, All the Smoke

In fairness to King James, Howard did add that he has “the whole package” and called him “Magic Johnson on steroids.” When it comes to pure skill, though, Kobe can’t be beaten.

Calling Kobe the most skilled player almost seems designed to start a debate, but there’s another way


Kobe Bryant Showed a Rare Human Side Whenever He Hit the Golf Course

When you hear Dwight Howard calling any one player, even someone as legendary as Kobe Bryant, the most skilled NBA star of all time, it’s easy to get cynical and start thinking of all the reasons why he’s either right or wrong. The big man’s other comments, however, suggest that there’s an alternative course of action.

At the risk of being a bit sappy, that other option is appreciation.

While comparing Kobe and LeBron to different comic book characters may seem a bit silly (although it’s incredibly on-brand for Howard), it does contain a certain amount of wisdom. Although there have certainly been debates over superhero superiority, it’s a bit easier to accept personal tastes in an arena other than sports. Without stats or historical arguments to fall back upon, you can agree to disagree. Some people will simply prefer Batman to Captain America or vice versa.

Beyond that, Howard’s tone is worth highlighting. While he’s making a comparison and saying one player is more skilled than the other, he doesn’t sound argumentative or like he’s trying to belittle King James. There’s a clear appreciation of both Lakers, just for different parts of their game.

Again, I know that sounds a bit foreign for sports fans who are used to stats, debate, and one side claiming superiority over the other. When it comes to all-time greatness, though, there should be room for a bit more understanding. It would be a shame, for example, to fail to appreciate LeBron James because you were too busy arguing that he’s really more skilled than Kobe Bryant.

Whether we’re talking about pro athletes or superheroes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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