So how did the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar pay tribute to his retiring counterpart on Mamba Day? By posting this photo on Instagram, a shot ostensibly taken during Team USA’s run to the Olympic Gold Medal in 2008.
Bryant and James, of course, first bonded while leading the Americans to gold in Beijing. They’d do the same four years later in London, the James serving as USA Basketball’s best player while Bryant played his customary role as finisher one final time.
The basketball world never got the NBA Finals matchup it wanted. James’ Cavaliers were stymied by more well-rounded foes during the Lakers’ reign near the top of the league in the late 2000s, while Bryant’s teams lived on their last legs as the Miami Heat dominated the Eastern Conference during the early 2010s. Shame.
But the bond between Bryant and James lives on regardless. They’re not just two of the most gifted players in history of the game, but also the pair who will forever be most synonymous with the NBA era immediately following Michael Jordan’s.
We’ll miss Kobe, obviously. But let’s not forget that we’re lucky to have at least a few more seasons to watch James, too.