Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James: How the Lion King Explains the NBA’s New Season

The best player on the defending champions is usually seen as the best player in basketball—from Bird and Magic in the 80’s to Jordan in the 90’s, with Hakeem sneaking in for a brief stretch during Jordan’s baseball hiatus.

After MJ’s second retirement, Phil Jackson moved to LA and started a new dynasty. A love-able giant became the face of the NBA, a 350-plus lb. force of nature with a combination of size, athletic ability and skill unseen since the days of Wilt Chamberlain.

The Lakers won three straight championships, with Shaq playing the role of Mufasa in the Lion King, ruling the league with a series of unstoppable post moves. But underneath, all was not well. Little brother wanted a shot at the throne.

The character of Scar lived in his big brother’s shadow at the start of the movie. And from his point of view, it was a terribly unjust situation. He was the smart brother— “born with the lion’s share of the brains in the family”—yet he had to cower before Mufasa’s brute strength.

Even worse, with the birth of Simba, Mufasa’s son, he was no longer in line for succession to the throne. His nephew jumped him, not for anything he had done but simply through genetics.

Such is life in an undemocratic system.

Kobe Bryant has yearned to claim the throne of best player in the NBA since he entered the league. He grew up watching Michael Jordan, aping his mannerisms and marketing himself as a competitor with the same killer instinct.

So he worked and worked and worked. No player has gotten more out of his physical talent than Kobe. He’s certainly not the only athletic 6'6" shooting guard to enter the NBA in the last 15 years. But comparable players like Vince Carter lacked his work ethic, his determination and his drive.

Everything someone with a slight 6'6" frame can do a basketball court&...

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