LeBron James may have never gotten the chance to play against his idol Kobe Bryant in the NBA Finals but he did get to be teammates with the Los Angeles Lakers star during the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. While playing for Team USA with Bryant, James got an up close look at the competitive drive of the Lakers guard and will never forget a play that occurred in a 2008 preliminary-group game against Spain.
A flagrant foul Bryant received after body checking his then Lakers teammate Pau Gasol on a screen.
From Cleveland.com's Joe Vardon:
The first play of the game he ran through the chest of Pau Gasol and got a flagrant. And Pau Gasol was his teammate with the Lakers. I was like, "Yeah, this guy is on another level."
I loved it. I mean, [Gasol] wasn't my teammate, but I was like, you guys can find that clip and you'll see what I'm talking about. It was one of the first plays of the game. I was like, "This guy's all about winning and whoever he's playing for or who he's playing with at that point in time." He really forgot Pau was his teammate. Like he really forgot that he was about to see him in like three weeks in L.A. I swear. It was crazy.
A bit blurry but here is the play James is referencing:
A totally unnecessary play by Bryant but his win by any means necessary attitude, has clearly rubbed off on James. And after he won two championships with the Miami Heat, James can fully understand Bryant's competitiveness.
To win, every little thing matters. Which is why James has the Cleveland Cavaliers skipping starting lineup introductions and even getting rid of Hoverboards. The Cavs are focused on not only making a return trip to the Finals but actually winning it this year. If that happens, James can thank Bryant for pointing him in the right direction.