‘Emotional’ LeBron remembers his favorite Kobe memory

LeBron vs. Kobe is always a ton of fun.
Presse Sports-US PRESSWIRE

LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are arguably the two best players of their respective generations, and the respect they have for one another knows no bounds: 

With this being Bryant’s final season, Wednesday night will mark his last trip to Cleveland as an NBA player. And even James can’t handle it (via ESPN):

“Anytime I even watch his games, even when I'm not playing him, it's always, like, very emotional just knowing it's his last hurrah,” James said after the Cavs' 120-100 win over the Sacramento Kings. “And he's done so much, not only for the Lakers organization, but for me as a kid growing up watching Kobe and things of that nature and also competing against him. So it's going to be really cool to see him on Wednesday for sure, and hopefully — I know our fans — they're going to give him a great reception, well-deserved.”

LeBron pushed on, recounting a Kobe memory he’ll cherish forever: The first time they met:

“I think my most fond moment is he gave me his shoes when I was in high school,” James said. “I think I was playing in a tournament in Teaneck, New Jersey, and they were playing in the [2002] All-Star Game in Philly. And I had an opportunity to go meet him, and he gave me a pair of his shoes, and I actually wore them in a game against Oak Hill, against ‘Melo [Carmelo Anthony], actually. So, six degrees of separation right there.”

They were a pair of Bryant's signature Adidas sneakers done up with a U.S. flag motif. James, who signed a lifetime contract with Nike earlier this season, said he does not still have the shoes.

According to Basketball-Reference, James has a serious advantage over Kobe when the two meet head-to-head. In 20 games, LeBron is 14-6, averaging 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists to Kobe’s 25.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists. James has been far more efficient, too, even though both players have shot exactly 31.3 percent behind the 3-point line. 

Here’s what happened last season, when the two squared off in Los Angeles:

Of course, head-to-head numbers only carry so much weight. It’s a team game, and Kobe’s teams have won three more championships than LeBron’s. To counter, James has three more regular season MVP awards than Bryant’s one trophy. 

Let’s ask Michael Jordan what he thinks:

Bryant’s career is all but finished, while the 31-year-old LeBron is still arguably the best player in the world (apologies to Steph Curry), on a team that’s once again headed for the NBA Finals. Whatever you do, don’t miss Wednesday night’s showdown.