As soon as LeBron James made his commitment to come to the Los Angeles Lakers, he had to know comparisons to Kobe Bryant would follow. If he didn’t know that, then the stupidity surrounding his murals was a rude introduction to that fact.
James was asked about those comparisons in an interview with Jim Hill of CBS and gave a very thoughtful answer:
“I think that’s unfair. That’s going to be the only thing that’s unfair in this conversation we have today because I think at the end of the day, we are all different.
“Michael’s fans, Michael Jordan himself. Kobe fans, Kobe himself. LeBron fans, and LeBron himself. We’re all different on the simple fact that we all take different challenges, we’ve all had challenges, we’ve all had different courses, but the one thing that’s the same is that we would do anything to play this game of basketball every single day.”
James is alluding to something rarely taken into account when figuring out upside or the fulfillment of said upside: Every single player entering the NBA comes from a unique background. Yes, some guys have more outright talent than others, but the immeasurable ability to live up to that talent has a lot to do with what got those players to that point.
In this explanation, James is saying that he, Bryant and Jordan all came from different backgrounds, but maximized their potential nonetheless. Their shared love of the game and desire for greatness helped them get there.
James really hammers that point home here:
“We would do anything to win and we would do anything to put our life on the line to win basketball games. We’re just champions. We was born champions and we work hard and we want to be the greatest that we can be, but I think we’ve all had our own paths. Mike had his path, Mike was the greatest. Kobe had his path, Kobe was the greatest. I had my own path, hopefully someday someone will say I’m the greatest.
“At the end of the day I hope we all make our fans and make each other’s fans proud as well, no matter whether you love us, hate us, or whatever the case may be.”
This has been the weirdest aspect of LeBron’s tenure in Los Angeles. He’s a Laker. Kobe was also a Laker. Yes, some might prefer Kobe to LeBron, but at the end of the day, if you’re rooting in any way, shape, or form against James so as to prove once and for all that #MambaMentality > #StriveForGreatness, that is really weird and also highly illogical.
Bryant had the opportunity (and took advantage of it) to play for the Lakers his entire career. We’re in year one of James’ Lakers tenure. There are endless variables that separate Bryant’s time with the Lakers from James’, so even if you wanted to use this one season against James in that conversation, you’d be ignoring endless amounts of context.
Just as a random example of that context, at no point during Bryant’s time as a Laker did Mitch Kupchak or Jim Buss just up and leave while a season was going on.
My railing against the desire to make such comparisons won’t do a thing to quell them, but it is great to hear James put into words some of why those comparisons are such a fool’s errand.