Kobe Bryant was the sort of legendary athlete that other legendary athletes spoke about with pure reverence.
Remembering the first time he was face-to-face with the five-time champ, LeBron James told the story of tracking him down at Philadelphia’s InterContinental hotel ahead of the 2002 NBA All-Star Game. Bryant would go on to win MVP honors in the game, but first he gifted the budding high school star with a pair of his Nike Kobe XI red, white and blue basketball sneakers. A size too small, the teen “rocked them” anyway, he shared with reporters.
And so years later, James continued, “it was a dream come true” to join Bryant on the Olympic team, standing shoulder to shoulder with his idol on the podium as he nabbed the first of his two gold medals.
“Just admiring him for so many years and seeing him from afar and then being able to be in practices with him and, you know, me watching and learning. There’s just too much. The story is just too much,” he said in a post-game interview Jan. 25. “Now I’m here in a Lakers uniform in Philadelphia where he’s from, where one of the first times I ever met him,