During their years together, I'd probably lean towards Kobe in '03 for a couple of reasons.
1 is that Shaq's "hurt on company time, heal on company time" thing has always been tough to ignore. It doesn't say anything about who was the more effective player on the court, but it factors in what they bring to a team.
2.Despite the amazing numbers(28/11/3, 2.4 bpg, 57 FG%, 60 TS%), Shaq just seemed a bit less dominant than other seasons when he had similar numbers. Part of that is because it was his laziest prime or near prime season defensively, which is less of an issue when comparing him to a perimeter player, but still takes away somewhat from his dominance. The other is that it seems like his baskets were easier that year, that his teammates found him more consistently when he had good post position.
That was also the year when Kobe for a stretch seemed to be the Lakers focal point, that occurred shortly before the 35 and 40 streaks started in late January, iirc, Phil had told Kobe he could have more freedom offensively. They sort of reverted back late in the season, but not entirely, so that was the season where I'm not sure I'd even call Shaq the Lakers 1st option, at least it's questionable taking the entire season into account.
Still, there's no denying Shaq made a huge impact. GMs actually voted him the best player in the league in March of '03, I don't agree with that, but the top 2-5 players that year are so difficult to rank that you could put them in any order.
And Shaq's improved free throw shooting was a plus that year compared to others. Even though he was still at a mediocre 62%, he was dominant in general offensively, that free throws weren't even talked about as a problem for him much that season even at 62%, which combined with his 57 FG% made him easily the most efficient high scorer in the league that season.
And Kobe's season wasn't without it's negatives as well. I've always said that regardless of whether his shoulder injury contributed to his disappointing performance vs the Spurs, it's no longer a valid excuse considering he tried to force things vs the Spurs. If you're not 100% and an injury affects then you shouldn't be trying to take over so much, particularly when you have another dominant player who was considerably more effective at that point.
So it's close, but at the moment I lean towards Kobe. It's close enough that I change my mind on this, which can often be the case when comparing an elite big man to an elite perimeter player. It makes it more difficult to compare their impact.
But 2004? I go with Shaq that season without thinking too hard about it.
Any year prior to '03 was Shaq, imo as I consider him the best player from 2000-2002, and by a clear margin in '00 and '01. Kobe was arguably top 2 in 2001, though. The 2001 Lakers are perhaps the team where the best case can be made that they had the top 2 players in the league weighing heavily how well Kobe played in the playoffs.
Originally Posted by JohnnySic
The only year that Kobe was possibly the best player was '06. Every other year, it was Shaq, Duncan (pre '06) or LeBron (post '06).
You're saying that Kobe wasn't even arguably the best player in '07 or '08? Lebron was NOT better than Kobe in '07. And I wouldn't hesitate to take Kobe over Lebron in '08 either.