Such is the questioned posed by Rick Reilly in a fictional battle between LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
The consensus among the "experts" is that in a game with a referee calling fouls Kobe would win. In a game with no fouls, LeBron would take it down. I'm not exactly sure why having a ref would matter, for the most part every pick-up game I have ever played - not having a referee has no bearing on the game at all. Furthermore, Kobe has averaged my personal fouls per game than LeBron has (2.66 vs. 1.95) I do not understand why anyone would want Kobe Bryant instead of LeBron James in anything whether it be 1 on 1, a team game, the bottom line is LeBron is just a better player than Kobe.
Without getting into Win Score, WP48, or Wins Produced (which all favor LeBron)
Since the question is asked right now who would you take, here are the 2010 stats for the contestants:
Assists: 8.6- although this would not matter in 1 on 1
Fouls (if there was a ref): 1.53
FG %: .503
Essentially what we are seeing is that LeBron does everything better except he does turn the ball over slightly more. This difference would largely be overcome by the fact that LeBron would make more shots, score more points, steal the ball more, block more shots, and get more rebounds.
On the other hand, I'm sure someone like Mark Jackson or Skip Bayless would argue that Kobe has more heart than LeBron, or he is a closer, or that he has the killer instinct that LeBron doesn't possess.
Seriously, in a one on one game this would not even be close. ESPN did this awhile ago when comparing Jeter to A-Rod. I forget the exact quote but Buster Olney said, "A-Rod would have the better jump-shot, better dribble, better defense, and have better overall skills, but Jeter would win 75% of the time." What is it with sportspeople and wanting to tear down the number 1 guys in the sport (Peyton Manning, LeBron James, A-Rod) and then prop up some other really good guy who isn't as good as the other guy on the basis of them being clutch, or just being a winner? (Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant, Derek Jeter)