Since LeBron James entered the NBA in 2003, either he or Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant has been at the top of the league. Because of this, it’s rare that players would get a chance to play with both of them.
However, Larry Nance Jr. is part of that elite group, playing with Bryant during his farewell tour, and having James as a teammate the second half of the 2017-18 season. Although Nance only got a short amount of time with both, it’s clear that he picked up some valuable lessons in those times.
He learned about how to fight through the pain and always work hard from Bryant, and learned about how to see the game on a different level from James. Nance recalled one of his favorite moments with Bryant, when he was struggling in his rookie year to balance his elite athleticism with newly learned skills, via ESPN’s “Highlights with Omar Raja:”
“It might sound silly, but when I first got to the league I had that one dunk against Festus [Ezili], and then after that I kind of started to lay the ball in. And my coaches and my teammates were saying I have to figure out how to last and not jump like that all the time. So I’m trying to like shoot hook shots over guys and start with touch shots and stuff like that.
“So I was missing a few in a game and Kobe kind of pulled me aside and was like ‘Nance, dunk everything. I don’t care where you’re at, if you’re under the basket or going towards the basket, if you’re near the basket, dunk anything and everything you can possibly dunk.’”
And while Bryant was teaching him to always use his best attribute, James was showing Nance his next level analysis of the game of basketball:
“He was awesome. I have not a single bad thing to say about him, I mean he’s like a basketball savant. I mean he literally will be on the court and having the ball and tells you exactly how you’re going to score and then you’ll score that way.
“Like he’ll have the ball up top and be like ‘Hey when I beat my man off the dribble and your man steps up, be there because I’m going to drop it off to you.’ And then he’ll beat his man, my man would step up and I’d get a dunk. And it’s like what is wrong with you, how do you know that?”
Both of the stories speak to the exact kinds of players Bryant and James are. Bryant was always about pushing yourself to the limit. While Nance’s teammates were telling him not to dunk so much to preserve his body, Bryant saw reason for the exact opposite.
Meanwhile, James was showing Nance his innate ability to see what’s happening on a basketball court and know exactly how the play will progress based on what he does. It’s a unique skill that can never fully be learned, but Nance definitely picked up on some of it.
Nance and former teammate Jordan Clarkson are two extremely lucky players having a chance to play with both Bryant and James, and these stories from Nance show exactly why.
LeBron keeps Kobe in his thoughts
The Lakers franchise was rocked in January when Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other passengers tragically passed away in a helicopter accident. James was among the more emotionally impacted players, and he reiterated keeping the five-time champion in his thoughts.
“A day doesn’t go by where I don’t think about him,” James recently said. “And a day doesn’t go by where our organization does not remember him and think about not only Kobe, but Gigi, Vanessa and the other girls.
“They’re a part of this family, just as big as anybody in this organization’s history. We still wear 24, 8 and 2 with pride and in remembrance of how great they were.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!