Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are often pitted as rivals by the media and their fans, but the current and former Lakers stars actually seem to have developed a mutual respect for one another during their time playing together for Team USA in the Olympics.
Those around the team have already described how the two worked in harmony to lead the 2008 “Redeem Team” to victory in Beijing, and Jason Kidd has said he thinks James learned from Bryant during their time together at the Olympics.
But what did James learn? In an excerpt of Bryant’s book with Andrew D. Bernstein, “Mamba Mentality,” Bryant revealed what exactly he felt like he taught the younger superstar during those times (via the Player’s Tribune):
I always aimed to kill the opposition. The main thing LeBron and I discussed was what constitutes a killer mentality. He watched how I approached every single practice, and I constantly challenged him and the rest of the guys.
I remember there was one half when we were messing around. I came into the locker room at half-time and asked the guys—in a less PG manner—what in the hell we were doing. In the second half, LeBron responded in a big way—he came out with a truly dominant mindset. And I’ve seen him lead that way ever since.
I don’t know when this passage was written, but Bryant taking responsibility for James’ leadership skills as soon as he joined the Lakers would be on-brand to the point of self-parody. That’s probably not what is actually happening here — this was likely written long before James made his decision — but it would be hilarious.
In all seriousness, though, there is a reminiscence of Bryant in the seriousness James has displayed while on the court. He obviously plays a completely different style of basketball, but it’s without the same smiling joy he often demonstrated early on in his career. Bryant isn’t necessarily responsible for that change — and it’s debatable whether or not it’s even a good thing — but it is a thing, and maybe we finally know where it came from.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.