Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant made his last stop in Cleveland to play the Cavaliers and LeBron James on Wednesday, and Bryant made some time to talk about his experience playing against James for the last 13 years.
Though Bryant and James have been the two biggest names in the NBA for well over a decade, Bryant believes he was more of a mentor to James, rather than a rival.
“I wouldn’t say he was a rival....I just felt like we were completely different generations,” Bryant said. “I just missed that thing completely. Not like a Magic and Bird sort of thing. It was more like, from the time he came in the league it was more helping him, giving him direction, advice, ’cause I was just so much older by NBA years. So no, I’ve never had that.”
By the time James had been drafted by the Cavaliers in 2003, Bryant was already entering his seventh season in the league, had won three NBA Championships and been named to four All-Star teams.
Bryant and James also don’t have an extensive history of playing big games against each other, never leading their teams to the NBA Finals in the same season. Bryant said that it’s disappointing the two never faced off with a title on the line, but said that it’s just part of the game.
“It’s just, I don’t know if weird would be the term I’d use for it,” he said. “Our teams, just, we never crossed paths unfortunately. I don’t want to say it was weird or anything like that. Just the ebb and flows of each season.”
After beating the Lakers, 120–111, on Wednesday, the Cavaliers will next play Los Angeles on March 10 in the final meeting between the teams.