Adding his voice to the chorus of past and present NBA players singing Kobe Bryant’s praises in recent days, LeBron James spoke of the Laker as an inspiration, friend and rival on Tuesday, expressing just how upset he is that the two never matched up in the NBA Finals.
“I knew I had to be better because of Kobe Bryant,” James said. “I knew he was in the gym and I knew he was working on his game. And I knew he was great. So every day that I didn't want to work out or every day I felt like I couldn't give more, I always thought of Kobe. Because I knew that he was getting better and I was like, ‘Man, if you take a day off, he's going to take advantage of it. You cannot take a day off.’”
James said that he was “truly sad” that Bryant will be hanging it up at the end of the season, and spent much of his time in front of the media this morning reminiscing on the near-half decade when he and Kobe were pitted head-to-head every night, despite often being on opposite sides of the country.
As the top teams in their respective conferences, their Lakers and Cavaliers clubs were pegged as rivals from 2008 on, but never ended up meeting in the finals -- a fact that, as James phrased it, “definitely sucks." The closest they came was during the 2008-2009 campaign, when, after sitting neck and neck in the standings all year, the two squads ended the regular season only one game apart. While Cleveland fell to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Lakers swept through the West and promptly took down the Magic in five games to earn the title of champions.
“I didn't hold up my end of the bargain in 2009 for … [the two of us] to meet in the Finals,” James admitted. “I know the world wanted to see it. I wanted it, we wanted it. He held up his end and I didn't hold up my end, and I hate that. I hate that that didn't happen.”
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