Photo Credit: USA Today
Months ago, I was talking with a few buddies from college who are all die-hard Kobe Bryant fans, and notorious LeBron James haters. As a recent LA transplant, I decided to buy a Bryant jersey to support the Laker culture in the city. Although I am a lifelong fan of King James, I didn’t mind supporting other players because I knew that LBJ’s status is solidified as one of the top two greatest players of all time.
However, it was my friends that didn’t support it, criticizing me, saying they would “NEVER buy a Lebron jersey”.
This sentiment, conflated with the recent LBJ mural defacing and vandalisms lately brings me to the inevitable conclusion that fans of the black mamba are the most insecure fans in all of the sports.
Sadly stuck between the larger than life shadow of Michael Jordan and the looming presence of James, Bryant often gets overlooked in the GOAT discussion. Most logical fans would rank him somewhere from the fifth to tenth greatest player of all time, while others will illogically argue you to death that he is second to none.
Regardless of where you decide to rank him, it is simply implausible the level of disrespect shown towards the decision that James elected to come play for the Los Angeles Lakers by Kobe Fans.
Yes, Kobe Fans.
That’s right, I said it.
Arguably the greatest player of all time comes to your franchise, which hasn’t been in the playoffs in five years, and somehow fans have the unmitigated gall to be so flippant, so disrespectful, so patronizing of the man coming off of his eighth consecutive finals appearance.
Get out of your feelings Kobe fans, and come to grips with reality. James is better than Bryant, and there is no shame in admitting that! The old Kobe/Lebron feuds should have dissipated in 2011 when the Bryant-led Lakers got swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs and eviscerated by the time James and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors in 2016 in historic fashion.
Don’t you want to be relevant? I thought this franchise was about winning championships? There’s no way that you’re a true Laker fan if you’re remotely apathetic about the arrival of James. When I got to LA, I instantly became magnanimous by purchasing the vintage #8 Bryant jersey. I can appreciate the legendary games, skills, and work ethic of Bryant. I love watching old clips of vintage Mamba, and I even try to incorporate the mamba mentality in my daily work. But the insufferable vandalism, disrespect, and disdain that fans here have shown towards James is distasteful.
Make sure you keep that same energy when James leads the Lakers to the Finals one day.
If I gave you a choice of not making the playoffs for the next three years or competing against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, which one would you take?
If you think that Bryant is better than James, then be confident in your beliefs! But your insecurities are manifesting themselves in the ugliest ways with each jealous scoff and act of vandalism. I was driving around the fashion district in downtown LA last weekend and I saw so many murals of Bryant, that it exponentially elevated the level of absurdity and immaturity shown recently.
The legacy of Bryant as a Laker Legend will always be secure. Although James is already widely regarded as the greater player, Bryant is unassailably the greatest Laker of all time.
There will never be anything that James can do to usurp that title, so in the words of the late LA legend Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”