July 9, 2012 BY John Kim / 11
The Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James rivalry has been one of the most oft-discussed stories in sports over the last decade, and although both came into the league straight from High School and are undoubtedly the leaders of the NBA’s elite troupe, the two aren’t as tit-for-tat as the media has made them out to be. First off, Kobe has seven years on LeBron in terms of NBA experience, so while LeBron was dominating the prep-school basketball domain, Kobe was doing the same at the world’s highest level while winning three NBA titles in the process. Currently, LeBron is riding high at the peak of his prime and enjoying life as a first-time NBA Champion, but Kobe Bryant, who will turn 34 during the Olympics, is actually outperforming the expectations his age indicates, but chalk that up to an insane work ethic and a competitive nature as ferocious as MJ’s was. So are the two exactly buddies? It’s safe to say that Kobe doesn’t share a bromance with LeBron like Dwyane Wade does, but they’ll likely agree to call their friendship a ‘mutual respect’ for one another, which is essentially how Michael Jordan carried on his relationships with every other NBA star that targeted his neck.
As we speak, Kobe and LeBron are in the middle of Training Camp for Team USA, and already their teammates, like Tyson Chandler who himself won an NBA Title just one year ago, have noticed LeBron’s newfound ‘swagger’ and the emphatic confidence he exudes at every step, but Kobe Bryant plans to remind LeBron that not only does he have five rings, but that he’s won two since the last Olympics. Even though Kobe outnumbers LeBron five-to-one in ‘chips, the debate isn’t anywhere near a conclusion (there are plenty of battles to be fought before the war is officially over), but perhaps this image of Kobe Bryant, during Team USA events, autographing a pair of LeBrons for a little girl wearing a Kobe jersey accurately depicts the current state of ‘the Kobe vs. LeBron rivalry: A stalemate of sorts? Is it possible to love both players simultaneously? There’s no doubt that both LeBron and Kobe will be gunning for ‘top dog’ during the Olympics because if the ’92 Dream Team documentary is any indication, Team USA competes with itself as much as it does with the rest of the world. We’ll have to wait and see who steals the show this August.