Not even Kobe Bryant can always walk the walk. After LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 to form a super-team with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Bryant sent the reigning MVP an unsurprisingly confident and contentious text message predicting a three-peat for his Los Angeles Lakers.
With a brutal seven-game victory over the Celtics in the bank for Bryant, the 2010 offseason is dominated by LeBron James’ decision to leave Cleveland for Miami.
What matters to Bryant is Phil Jackson agreeing to return to coach the Lakers again in pursuit of a third consecutive NBA title. Bryant sends James a text message. It goes like this:
“Go ahead and get another MVP, if you want. And find the city you want to live in. But we’re going to win the championship. Don’t worry about it.”
Bryant hardly proved prophetic, of course. The two-time defending champion Lakers fell apart in the 2011 playoffs, getting swept by eventual title winners the Dallas Mavericks. And after a rough start to the season, James and the Heat righted the ship before falling to Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs in the Finals. Kobe wasn’t even right about James getting another MVP – Derrick Rose’s rapid ascent to superstardom was complete when he won the award.
It also bears reminding that the Heat would go on to win back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013. LeBron was named MVP in each season, too. The Lakers, meanwhile, were dispatched by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the conference semifinals after five games in 2012 and swept by the San Antonio Spurs the ensuing spring after clawing their way to the West’s final playoff spot. Bryant didn’t play in the 2013 postseason after rupturing his achilles in mid-April.
Obviously, things haven’t gone as Kobe planned since his message to James. But whether the Lakers made good on his promise and won a championship in 2011 or not, it was never realistic for Bryant to enjoy James’ level of success the past four years. The former’s playing prime ended at the turn of the decade while the latter’s was just beginning. And as hard as Kobe fought Father Time during a bounce-back 2013 season, He always wins in the end.
Bryant and James aren’t notoriously close, but have maintained a healthy, public respect for one another since teaming up with USA Basketball at the 2008 Olympics. So it’s pertinent to note that Kobe’s apparent braggadocio lacks any context whatsoever. His message to LeBron was more likely friendly, competitive banter than outright antagonism, a theory supported by their bond as leaders of Team USA in 2012.
Still, this story is certainly worthy of being added to Bryant lore.
What do you think?
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