As great individual matchups go, this one's a doozy.
Thursday night features the season's first meeting between two of the NBA's top three scorers, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Both are dynamic wing players who seem capable of doing virtually anything on the right night. Both also have the baggage of being hailed as the Next Jordan, and the burden of carrying undermanned supporting casts (although in James' case, it's a more recent development, since the injury to Larry Hughes).
Yes, a nitpicker could point out that they won't be guarding each other much -- expect Ira Newble to be checking Bryant most of the evening while Lamar Odom and Devean George take turns against James -- but it still promises to be one of the year's most entertaining matchups.
And leading into it, one has to ponder a simple question: Who's better?
I don't mean better in the sense of career accomplishments (edge: Kobe) or what they accomplished at the same age (edge: LeBron). I'm talking about who is better right now. If you had to win a game tomorrow, which player would you choose first, Kobe or James?
To help us decide, I thought I'd break things down into the different phases of the game and see where that leads us.