“He knows he don’t suck,” James told the Akron Beacon Journal.
On Sunday, Bryant called himself the 200th-best player in the league and said, “I freaking suck,” after the Lakers’ 103–93 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. But James identified with the motivation for the 37-year-old’s condemnation of his performance.
“What I see is a challenge to himself,” James said. “It has zero to do with his age. Zero. I think at one point in my career, in my 20s, I felt like I sucked. It’s all a personal challenge.”
Through the Lakers’ 0–4 start, Bryant has averaged 15.8 points per game with a 32.3% field goal percentage on 28 minutes per game. On Saturday, Bryant said he planned to step back to allow his younger teammates to take charge in games.
Sports Illustrated ranked Bryant the 54th-best player in the league in its preseason player rankings, while James was ranked No. 1.
“I know him. He knows he don’t suck," James said. “C’mon, man, it’s Kobe Bryant.”
The Lakers play the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, and do not face the Cavaliers until Feb. 10.
- Erin Flynn