Passing the torch doesn’t always happen organically in sports, but if there was a moment when Kobe Bryant handed the proverbial Lakers flame to LeBron James, it was in his final tweet, congratulating James on passing him to become the third-leading scorer in NBA history:
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020
There was no way Bryant could have intended for this, but it ended up perfectly capturing his appreciation for the game for future generations to see, right at the top of his feed.
Bryant may have been one of the most cutthroat competitors in the history of professional sports, but he was also a nearly unparalleled basketball historian, and someone who just wanted to see the game (and coverage of it) continue to evolve and be played at the highest level possible.
Bleacher Report’s latest (and penultimate) episode of “Game of Zones” — it’s now-iconic crossover between “Game of Thrones” and the NBA — managed to capture the sentiment of that moment between James and Bryant in a heartfelt, poignant and still funny way. The whole episode is a fun watch, but the moment between Kobe and LeBron starts at the six-minute, 21-second mark for any Lakers fans who just want to skip ahead:
Bryant was an avid “Game of Thrones” nerd whose wife got him signed copies of all the books as a Christmas gift — and who used analogies from the series to describe Jeanie Buss’ ousting of her brother, Jim Buss — so it feels safe to guess that probably would have appreciated on multiple levels how well the cameo captured his essence: A basketball nerd who didn’t want the game to stay mired in the past, but also one who wasn’t afraid to talk a little shit.