LeBron James marveled at the unexpected and oftentimes illogical scenarios life occasionally writes when he passed Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant on the NBA All-Time scoring list.
James made a layup in the third quarter of the Jan. 25, 2020 game against the Philadelphia 76ers, cutting the hosts’ lead down to 20. It didn’t mean much for the outcome of the clash, as L.A. would suffer a double-digit defeat at Wells Fargo Center.
But in the grand scheme of things, the bucket couldn’t have been more momentous.
James’ deuce sent him up to third on the all-time scoring list, beating Bryant’s 36,381 career points. The All-Star forward did it in a jersey the retired Lakers’ legend wore for 20 years. He did it in Philadelphia, where Bryant was born — and where he learned the intricacies of the game of basketball at Lower Marion High School.
As competitive as Bryant always was, he didn’t hold it against James.
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020
Bryant reportedly called James after the game; his teammates listened to the call with the Black Mamba, the leader of two remarkable Lakers teams that produced five NBA championships for the franchise.
They didn’t know they would never hear his voice again.
Roughly 12 hours later, Bryant died in a helicopter crash that also carried his daughter, Gianna, and seven other people. James admitted to crying while trying to come up with words for his tribute Instagram post. In it, the forward promised he would continue Bryant’s legacy.
He delivered on his promise.
That same year, the Lakers memorably won the title in the Orlando bubble. James said he felt Bryant’s presence as he, Anthony Davis, and other members of that 2019-20 group cruised toward the Purple and Gold’s 17th title.
The triumph officially ended the worst decade in the Lakers’ history — in the same year a major part of that history tragically died.
As James said after passing Bryant on the all-time scoring list, things happen organically and it’s not supposed to make sense.
But it just happens.
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