Let’s go back to 2010. An NBA Finals matchup between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James seemed a near-certainty. Kobe’s Lakers were the best in the West, and LeBron’s Cavaliers had seemingly only the specter of the Boston Celtics to defeat for their second trip to the Finals during the first LeBron era. It was to be two ascendent stars duking it out for the championship, right? That was the dream of every fan, and most likely, the entire Association.
That series never materialized. LeBron’s best efforts weren’t enough to get past the Celtics in the Conference Semifinals. Kobe and LeBron never again got close to dueling on the league’s biggest stage. In a way, this is a microcosm for the rivalry-that-never-was between the two stars. Their regular season games were marquee events, but they never played for anything of importance. That’s why, as Michael Pina and Lindsey Foltin of FOX Sports report, the rivalry everyone craved between the two of them never came to fruition.
“I wouldn’t say he was a rival. … I just felt like we were completely different generations. 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.”
So is it weird to Bryant that he’s never met James in the Finals?
“I wouldn’t say weird,” Bryant said. “It’s just, I don’t know if weird would be the term I’d use for it. 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.”
This is precisely why the debate that raged between fans over who was the better player never made sense. Kobe and LeBron were never on a direct collision course; they were never true contemporaries, so it was irrelevant to compare their accomplishments side-by-side. They were like two ships, one having already made several successful trips around the world, the other only just starting on its long voyage.
(Via FOX Sports)