Whenever there is competition to complete a common goal, there is room for a rivalry to emerge. This can be true in many different genres including and not exclusive to the business world, the stock market, and most definitely in hip hop and the NBA. While hip hop and professional basketball may be two completely different avenues of entertainment, they share a highly combative commonality in several ways.
Since the inception of the league the NBA has had many rivalries. The most notable being the rivalries being: Celtics- Lakers, Bulls-Pistons, Knicks-Pacers, and many more. All of these rivalries became so intense due to the magnitude of the games in which they clashed. The Celtics vs. the Lakers is perhaps the NBA’s signature rivalry since both franchises have combined to win just under half of all NBA championships and have had many battles against each other doing so. Bull-Pistons was a fierce rivalry in the late 1980s and early 1990s since they faced each other every year in the playoffs from 1988-1991. Knicks-Pacers is a very known rivalry for the many times they met in the playoffs in the 1990s. All of these rivalries occurred because both teams shared the common goal to win and ultimately be the last team standing.
In Hip Hop, there have been many historical musical rivalries (more commonly known as beefs). From Kool Moe Dee vs. Busy Bee, LL Cool J vs. Canibus,
Juice Crew vs. Boogie Down Productions, hip hop, like basketball is rooted in competition. Much of this competition is driven by artists wanting to be the best. Some of these beefs may have been caused by outside occurrences from the music, but is usually settled on record. Rhyme for rhyme the emcees battled each other to see who would be victorious. This can relate to two players in a fierce rivalry fighting to win the game for their team.
Individually, probably the most famous rivalry in basketball is Magic Johnson vs Larry Bird. What makes this rivalry unique is that it started in college during the national championship game in 1979 and later when they went on to being the faces of the Lakers-Celtics respectively, and renewed the rivalry in the 1980s. Magic Johnson was known to be a big point guard with all around skill on the Showtime Lakers while Larry Bird was known to be an all around scorer and rebounder for the Boston Celtics. Between them, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were part of 8 championship teams in the 1980s and faced each other three times in the NBA finals. The battles between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics in the 1980s are some of the most memorable moments in NBA history. Magic’s Lakers ultimately won two out of three against Bird’s Celtics in the NBA finals, but the argument on who is better individually is still alive today.
Today, much of the sports media and fans like to compare Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. Both players are two of the most talented players of their generation and are most likely first-ballot hall of famers once they retire. Even though they have different playing styles and came to the NBA seven years apart, they have been compared side by side by many people.
The comparisons between these two can be endless. Since Michael Jordan won six out of six NBA Finals in the 1990s, many observers who follow the NBA has had an infatuation on wanting to know who the top player in the NBA is. Many fans of Kobe Bryant have argued that Kobe Bryant is better than Lebron James for being a better scorer and having won more NBA titles. Many fans of Lebron James have argued that he is better than Kobe Bryant since he presents more efficient stats and has more all around skills. With this, the popular question has been brought up; who would win 1 on 1 between Kobe and Lebron? This has led to countless debates in sports television and even marketing campaigns by Nike which endorses both Lebron James and Kobe Bryant.
The Kobe Bryant and Lebron James comparison is very similar to the Nas-Jay-Z comparison in hip hop. Nas and Jay-Z are two iconic emcees in hip hop today and many fans of the genre consider them to be two of the greatest to ever do it. Both rappers in their prime are from a similar era of hip hop and both have their own unique style. Nas can be characterized as a street poet and has had much success in terms of mainstream recognition. Jay-Z is perhaps the most recognizable name in hip hop right now for his many albums and his several ventures outside hip hop.
This comparison heated up when these two emcees had a musical beef for several years in the early to mid 2000s in which both artists made diss records to each other. The feud ultimately ended, but the comparison on who is the better emcee is still alive. To this day, hip hop fans argue on who won the battle between them and who ultimately is the better emcee. It’s hard to compare them since they present different styles in rapping and choosing who is better comes to personal preference. The same can be said about Kobe Bryant and Lebron James at this point.
Even though fans of both players would disagree, there is no rivalry between Lebron James and Kobe Bryant. Unlike Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, these players have never faced each other in the NBA playoffs. Lebron James and Kobe Bryant do not even have animosity towards each other like rivals of the past have had. Had Kobe Bryant and Lebron James faced each other once or twice in the NBA finals, then talks of a rivalry would be more valid. Until then, Lebron James vs. Kobe Bryant is nothing more than a comparison of two great players who have played in the same era. Does two regular season matchups against each other really tell who the better player is? Even if they did face each other in the finals, teams win championships, not individual players.
Both players are unique at what they do and it’s hard to compare them when they’re at different points in their careers. When Lebron James came into the league in 2003, Kobe Bryant had already been part of three championship teams. It would make more sense to judge these two side by side once they both retire and can’t add anymore to their legacies as basketball players. You cannot judge a book with unfinished chapters in it. Whether you like the skills of a Lebron James over the skills of a Kobe Bryant or vice versa is all subjective.
The beauty of sports is that these debates will never end just like how some debates in music may never end. Lebron James and Kobe Bryant may have many more battles against each other on the court, but ultimately as members of their respected teams. Many people forget basketball is a team sport that goes deeper than stats and highlight plays. Before people dive into the Lebron-Kobe hype train once again and take sides, they should appreciate both players just how many hip hop fans can appreciate both Nas and Jay-Z.