It is a shame that the NBA and its fans never got a chance to see Kobe Bryant and LeBron James face off in the Finals, as the two were the most popular players in the league during the late 2000s.
Bryant was leading the Los Angeles Lakers to consecutive titles in 2009 and 2010, while James was unfortunately denied by teams like the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics. James would eventually make it to the big stage as a member of the Miami Heat, but at that point the Lakers and Bryant had begun their steep decline.
Despite the missed opportunities, the two do share a special connection as James eventually joined the purple and gold and etched his name alongside the Laker greats like Bryant. Bryant helped lead the storied franchise to five championships, and James is doing his best to help the franchise capture the 2020 NBA championship.
There is also another small tidbit that Bryant and James share as the two superstars flirted with joining the L.A. Clippers. However, according to Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report, former Clippers owner Donald Sterling was not present to pitch James, which left Bryant as the player he traveled farthest to recruit:
The Clippers also went into the meeting convinced he was leaving but unaware that having cap space for both Bosh and Wade could seal the deal. Team president Andy Roeser and general manager Neil Olshey were their lone representatives; owner Donald Sterling refused to be part of the contingent. “The farthest Donald has ever gone to meet with a free agent is to Newport Beach to meet with Kobe [Bryant],” a league source says.
Bryant made his home in Newport Beach and was considering joining the Clippers when he was a free agent back in 2004, but reconsidered and re-signed with the Lakers after speaking to former Lakers owner Jerry Buss. Shaquille O’Neal was traded to Miami, paving the way for Bryant to prove he could lead his own team to success.
It is one of the bigger what-ifs in NBA history, but fortunately for the Lakers, Bryant chose to stay with the team that groomed him. Bryant’s decision paid dividends in the end, and hopefully James finds the same postseason success in the coming years.
Bryant memorialized by Instagram
Now six months from his tragic death, Bryant’s Instagram account was updated to include “Remembering” above his name. It’s the latest in a long line of honors carried forward by artists, companies and fans alike.
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