As Kobe Bryant was playing through the final years of his prime, LeBron James was on the rise and being touted as the league’s next unquestioned best player. So it went that a rivalry of sorts developed — or was created — between Bryant and James.
Not necessarily between one another, as they never had the classic battles in the playoffs or NBA Finals that Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan did, or Johnson and Larry Bird, and Jordan with Bird and Isiah Thomas.
Nonetheless, fans of Bryant and James have historically argued over who is the superior player. And with James joining the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency this summer, it’s added another layer to that debate.
However, there was also the downside of James’ murals in Los Angeles being vandalized. General assumption held it was the acts of Bryant fans who are not pleased that James decided to sign with the Lakers.
Bryant addressed the perception that his fans were behind the vandalism and expressed confidence that segment of the fanbase would soon get behind James, via “The Rich Eisen Show:”
“I hear that. But listen, if you’re a fan of mine, you’re a fan of winning, you’re a fan of the Lakers. I bleed purple and gold. So that’s above anything else. I’ve been a fan of the Lakers since I was yay high. That’s never going to change. It’s about winning championships, so they’ll fall in line.”
While James was pursuing a fourth career championship, Bryant took to social media to call for an end to the comparisons between the two greats. Instead, he implored fans to appreciate each player, as well as others, for what they are and accomplished.
Bryant has been supportive of James prior to and since his signing with the Lakers, and his message is similar to that of owner Jeanie Buss — the franchise’s success takes precedent. Moreover, Buss asserted Bryant’s legacy with the Lakers would go unmatched by James or anyone else.