Kobe Bryant and LeBron James sat atop for several years as the NBA’s best players. The two all-time greats engaged in intense on-court battles that built a tremendous strong mutual respect and admiration. It led the former Los Angeles Lakers great guard to admit he would have liked to play with James.
Kobe Bryant and LeBron James shared a competitive rivalry
James’ quick rise to stardom put him alongside Bryant for the prestigious recognition as the NBA’s best player.
The two stars competed for the vaunted title through the late 2000s and into the early 2010s. Bryant led the Lakers to win back-to-back championships in three straight Finals appearances. Meanwhile, James turned the Cleveland Cavaliers into a championship contender, including a trip to the 2007 Finals.
The star forward followed that with four straight trips to the grandest stage in as many years with the Miami Heat, where he won his first two NBA titles. As the Lakers struggled to build a championship contender around Bryant, James garnered more traction in the conversation.
The two all-time greats faced each other 22 times in the regular season, with the Akron native getting the upper hand on 16 occasions. In those contests, Bryant averaged 24.6 points, 5.2 assists, and 5.0 rebounds, while James averaged 28.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.3 assists.
All that led the former Lakers star to make a surprising admission regarding his longtime adversary.
Kobe Bryant dreamt of forming an unstoppable duo with LeBron James
The numerous battles against James led Bryant to develop a strong admiration toward him.
During an interview on Holding Court with Geno Auriemma podcast in December 2017, the former Lakers star voiced he would have liked to play with the star forward during his prime.
“I think the player that would fit with me the most, I actually think would be LeBron,” Bryant said via Lakers Nation. “He’s a passer first, I’m a scorer, I’m a finisher. ‘Bron is a facilitator by nature and I’m a finisher by nature. Those two styles, I think complement each other extremely well.”
Bryant and James are ball-dominant players, but the two could have made it work. The latter certainly accomplished that playing alongside Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat, where the two anchored four straight trips to the NBA Finals, winning a pair of championships.
Glimpses of that pairing were on display during the brief time with Team USA. James’ presence could have helped Bryant extend his prime further into his career while vying for more NBA titles.
The dream scenario would have featured the two stars playing with the Lakers, as James later joined the franchise in the summer of 2018. It would have altered the narrative of their respective legacies, but it’s hard not to envision the duo guiding their team to multiple NBA titles due to their sheer talent and stellar combined play.
LeBron James honoring Kobe Bryant with his Lakers tenure
In James’ fourth year in Los Angeles, he’s hoping to lead the franchise to another NBA title.
He guided the Lakers to a 17th NBA title in 2020 after trekking through a challenging situation in the Orlando Bubble. Los Angeles fell short last season after injuries to Anthony Davis and James resulted in a first-round playoff exit.
After a busy offseason to retool the roster, Los Angeles struggles to find its way as injuries and COVID-19-related issues have remained prominent. Meanwhile, James is still performing at an elite level in his 19th campaign, averaging a team-best 26.4 points.
Although the path ahead sits filled with outside doubt, the 36-year-old is eyeing adding a second NBA title to his Lakers’ tenure, tying him with Bryant in total championships won. Time will tell what will unfold, but James is more than motivated to further honor the Hall of Famer’s legacy.