Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James 2009

Ryan WardCorrespondent IJanuary 18, 2009

The past two games for the Lakers have been great, but unfortunately ended in losses. The Spurs game in San Antonio was an instant classic, but the Lakers got screwed by a flop by Roger Mason (in my opinion) which ultimately cost the Lakers the win. Even though Mason won the game for the Spurs, Kobe Bryant hit one of the best clutch shots I think I have ever seen.

The Orlando Magic came to Los Angeles to face the Lakers and throughout the whole game Dwight Howard made Andrew Bynum seem non-existent by dominating the paint with 25 points and ripping down 20 boards.

Although Bynum was put in his place by arguably the best center in the game right now, Kobe had a great game with his 15th career triple double, but it wasn't enough to hold off Jameer Nelson who took over the game in the fourth quarter and hit a key three point which pretty much sealed the deal for the Magic.

Despite losing two straight to two great teams and the injuries to Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton, and Lamar Odom, the Lakers are still looking good and poised to be the best in the West when it is all said and done.

The biggest test for the Lakers thus far will be on Monday night when they take on LeBron James and company in LA. The win over the Boston Celtics on Christmas day was huge, but a win over Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday would give the Lakers a huge confidence boost after dropping two games that they should have won.

Even though I believe that Kobe Bryant is hands down the best player in the NBA right now (a little bias, I know), it would be hard to argue that LeBron James isn't the leading MVP candidate thus far. Kobe Bryant has played great and Dwyane Wade has played as if reborn, but LeBron has been unbelievable!

Not only has LeBron lead his Cavs past the defending NBA champion Boston Celtics as the best team in the East, but he has also totally redefined his game by improving his game on the defensive end of the floor. So far LeBron has got to be the front runner for the MVP, but I also believe he should be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year.

There is only one other player that comes to mind when I think of both the NBA MVP and the Defensive player of the year and that is Michael Jordan. The thing that made Jordan so dominant is not just the fact that he was unstoppable on offense, but that he was just as dominant on defense. Kobe Bryant is a great defender, don't get me wrong, but LeBron has seemed to improve his game to the next level. When I see this kid block shots he immediately reminds me of Jordan and that is something Kobe hasn't been able to do on defense.

With that being said this matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers will in my opinion show us who is the best player in the NBA as of right now. I still think Kobe is on top, but LeBron is not far behind. Last season, LeBron got the best of Kobe when they went head-to-head, but this time I think the match up between the two NBA greats and the two best teams in the NBA is closer than it has ever been.

Who will win? Honestly, it is too close to call, but I can guarantee it will be one of the best games of the season and quite possibly a game that will be another NBA classic!

KOBE BRYANT vs. LEBRON JAMES: Monday, Jan. 19th 7:30pm PST