Kobe or Lebron, Part Four

I’ve already compared the statistical performance of Kobe Bryant and Lebron James in the playoffs of 2008 and 2009, as well as their statistical performance during the 2008 regular season. Let’s complete the analysis by examining the stats from this year’s regular season.

Lebron posted these numbers:

28.1 points per game
7.6 rebounds per game
7.2 assists per game
2.44 assist to turnover ratio
.489 field goal shooting percentage
.780 free-throw shooting percentage
.344 three-point shooting percentage

Kobe’s numbers were as follows:

26.8 points per game
5.2 rebounds per game
4.9 assists per game
1.9 assist to turnover ratio
.467 field goal shooting percentage
.856 free-throw shooting percentage
.351 three-point shooting percentage

So Lebron out-performed Kobe in all of these statistical categories except for three-point shooting and free-throw percentage. The difference in three-point shooting percentage was not substantial. Lebron took half a three-point attempt more than Kobe at something close to a “break-even” success rate. So this category is basically a wash.

Kobe had a much better free-throw shooting percentage. His high degree of accuracy, coupled with his seven attempts per game, was a huge asset to the Lakers. But Lebron also contributed tremendously by making 78 percent of his whopping 9.4 attempts per game (the expected value of a James trip to the line for two free throws is about 1.5 points, much higher than the expected value of a possession if no one gets to the line for Cleveland). In my rough and inexpert calculation, James’ greater ability to get to the line basically offsets Kobe’s higher success rate.

James is decisively ahead of Bryant in all other categories cited above. He also had marginally more steals per game and about three times as many blocked shots per game, though neither had many.

Finally, Lebron’s team won more regular season games than Kobe’s, and probably with a lesser supporting cast.

Conclusion: Lebron had a better regular season than Kobe from a statistical point of view.

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