LeBron James Wishes He Could’ve Played Against Kobe Bryant In NBA Finals

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant have only been to a combined 11 NBA Finals, but the two have never faced off against one another in the championship series. This is something James sorely regrets after Bryant announced that he would be retiring from the game.

“I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain to meet in the Finals in 2009,” said James, speaking with ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.

Seeing LeBron James and Kobe Bryant face off in the Finals is something that the world surely wanted to witness, and it was something that the two NBA players definitely wanted to turn into a reality, according to Bleacher Report.

“I mean, in high school I wore a nappy-a** afro because of Kobe Bryant, because he wore it,” James said. “I wanted to be just like him, man. And I always said my inspiration came from [Michael] Jordan, but I always thought Jordan was so out of this world that I could never get there. Kobe was someone that I just always kind of wanted to be like and play like.”

“It was someone that I always knew I had to be in the gym,” LeBron James said, in a conversation with Allie Clifton of Fox Sports Ohio, trying to articulate what Bryant meant to him once he went pro.

LeBron James Wishes He Could've Played Against Kobe Bryant In NBA Finals
LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket past Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 93-83 Laker win at Staples Center on March 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

“I knew I had to be better because of Kobe Bryant. I knew he was in the gym and I knew he was working on his game. And I knew he was great. So every day that I didn’t want to work out or every day I felt like I couldn’t give more, I always thought of Kobe. Because I knew that he was getting better and I was like, ‘Man, if you take a day off, he’s going to take advantage of it. You cannot take a day off. You cannot take a day off.’ And I used him for my motivation throughout my career because I always knew that he was working on something.”

LeBron James says that the gold medal game in the 2008 Olympics against Spain was among the most unforgettable games he had ever played with Bryant, along with the first game they played in the Spring of ’08 during the preliminary rounds. Kobe Bryant’s hardcore competitive nature is something James really began to admire playing alongside him with Team USA.

LeBron James Wishes He Could've Played Against Kobe Bryant In NBA Finals
LeBron James (L) and Kobe Bryant (R) look on during a press conference ahead of the London 2012 Olympics on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

While Kobe Bryant is preparing to leave the NBA, LeBron James recently landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated, an issue that will be released December 7, 2015. Cavaliers general manager David Griffin says that 30-year-old James is highly determined this season to take home the championship.

“The most important thing in his life is winning a championship here, and he feels incredible pressure to deliver,” he said. “He is consumed by it.”

Remembering the NBA Finals series loss to the Warriors, James wants to remain hopeful that this season can be different.

“It was painful… But then some days go by, and you refocus, and you start to think, Maybe I can get there again. I don’t think we were outcoached or outplayed. I think we were outmatched.”

His teammates are certainly feeling his drive and determination this season, and it does not look like he is going to let up anytime soon.

[Photo by Harry How/Getty Images]