Basketball is a team sport, and Championship rings are won by - and awarded to - an entire team. This is why I find it so perplexing that so many Kobe Bryant fans try to use the 'rings' debate to argue that he is a better player than LeBron James. This argument just does not make any sense.
When debating one individual vs another, the only way to do it is by looking at individual statistics, individual accomplishments and individual awards. Titles and championships are only a true reflection of an individuals abilities when they are playing an individual game - such as tennis or golf - but not when they are playing a team game like basketball.
The fact that the Lakers won the 'ring' this year proves one thing - that the Lakers were the better team. It does not however prove that every individual player on the Lakers roster is better than every other player, on every other roster. The New Jersey Nets were the 2010 cellar-dwellers - complete opposite end of the spectrum to the Lakers. No-one is arguing the fact that the Lakers 'ring' proves they are a better team than the Nets, but does having this 'ring' automatically elevate every Lakers player to another level?
DJ Mbenga won a ring this year - Brook Lopez didn't - does that mean that Mbenga is the better individual player? Well actually, Mbenga won the ring last season too - do his 2 championship rings make him one of the greatest centers of all time? I mean, he has just as many rings as David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon, and 2 more than Patrick Ewing - does this make DJ Mbenga the better player?
How about Sasha Vujacic who also grabbed his 2nd ring - he now has more 'rings' than many of the greats who came before him including Clyde Drexler, John Stockton, Reggie Miller and Allen Iverson. He also has more rings than current superstars Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Dwight Howard - does this mean that he is a better player than all of these guys? If you actually answered "yes" to this question, then you should probably stop reading here, as your knowledge of the game is so limited that we do not want to waste our time acknowledging your input.
Now the game of basketball is quite simple when you think about it - the objective of each individual player is to score points, grab rebounds, dish out assists in order to keep your teammates involved, and then play menacing defense on the other end. If a player goes out there and achieves this on a nightly basis, then he has accomplished that objective - and if he is fortunate enough to have 11 other teammates that go out there and do the same thing night after night, then the team as a whole might be rewarded for this effort with the gift of a 'ring' at seasons end.
So the fact of the matter is that LeBron James achieves this objective on a nightly basis - his stats don't lie. He does absolutely everything that an individual can possibly do on the court - he scores points, grabs rebounds, dishes assists and plays menacing defense - all of the basic principals that make up the game of basketball. But
LeBron doesn't JUST achieve these objectives - he annihilates them, easily surpassing every other player in the league - hence the 2x league MVP. He scores more points than Kobe, grabs more rebounds than Kobe, dishes more assists than Kobe, gets more steals and more blocks than Kobe. He also shoots a higher field goal percentage than Kobe and a higher 3-point field goal percentage than Kobe.
The 4 basic basketball principals - score points, grab rebounds, dish out assists and play menacing defense - seeing as LeBron manages to do all of these things at a higher level than Kobe, doesn't that then make him the better player? Despite all of the facts (which can be obtained at the official NBA website www.nba.com), I have had hundred's of people come to me and argue that the 'rings' make Kobe a better individual player, case closed.
So the logic goes - "Rings mean everything, stats and individual awards mean nothing". OK - I understand this logic. So what you're telling me is that Robert Horry is by far the better player when comparing him to Kobe Bryant. Despite the fact that Kobe scores more points, grabs more rebounds, dishes more assists, gets more steals and shoots a higher field goal percentage - Horry has 7 rings, Kobe only has 5. So standing true to the basis of your logic - "rings mean everything, stats and individual awards mean nothing" - it is agreed that Robert Horry not only surpasses Kobe Bryant as a better individual player, but he also surpasses the greatest of them all, Michael Jordan. Case closed!
The cracks in this logic are beginning to show. Im sorry but your logic is wrong! Your logic disrespects the game of basketball and it disrespects many of the greatest players this game has ever seen. It's plain and simple - when comparing individual players, you can not take into account team accomplishments such as 'rings'.
*Author originally posted this article in June, 2010