LeBron James has taken the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals for the first time in a decade. The last player to do it? Kobe Bryant.
LeBron left the Cleveland Cavaliers and joined the Lakers in 2018, and at the time, he felt like he needed some guidance. He planned to share a meal with Kobe to learn the ins and outs of playing in L.A., but with both of their hectic schedules, the opportunity never materialized.
Kobe tragically died on January 26 in a helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna as well as seven other people.
In an interview with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, LeBron named the missed opportunity as one of his regrets.
“Of course, you think there’s going to be time for us to get together, and I understand that there are regrets in life, but I definitely wish I had that moment with him,” LeBron told Yahoo Sports.
LeBron reflected on how welcoming Kobe was after arriving in L.A., at a time when the Lakers fanbase wasn’t 100 percent sold on LeBron joining the team.
“I do remember when I decided to come here, he sent me a text right away and said, ‘Welcome, brother. Welcome to the family.’ That was a special moment because, at the time, Laker faithful wasn’t [fully in on me],” LeBron continued. “A lot of people were saying, ‘Well, we might not want LeBron at this point in his career,’ and, ‘Is he right? Is he going to get us back [to The Finals]?’ So to hear from him and get his stamp of approval, it meant a lot. I don’t ever question myself, but when it’s coming from Kobe, it definitely meant a lot.”
LeBron divulged some of the details he had planned to discuss with Kobe when they got together.
“When I played in Cleveland, I grew up 35 minutes away from there, and so I kind of knew the people. When I went down to Miami, [Dwyane Wade] was able to give me the blueprint on that. But I never played for a historic franchise like the Lakers,” James told Yahoo Sports. “It’s probably like when [Alex Rodriguez] went to the Yankees. He probably heard from [Derek] Jeter on what it’s going to take to play in front of this. It’s different from playing with the Mariners. It’s different from the Rangers. I would have definitely loved to get that side of what it takes, what does it take to win over Laker faithful, or how can I make them appreciate my game. … That would have been something to pick his brain on.”
He also would have addressed never playing against each other in the Finals.
“And then probably talk about us never meeting in the Finals. Just apologizing to him. In f—ing ’09 when I lost to Dwight [Howard], that would have been a great conversation for sure. You know, just to be like, we didn’t give the people what they wanted. We didn’t give them what they wanted.”