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When Kobe Bryant and LeBron James went head-to-head for the last time ever

One guy dominated the rivalry on the court, but the numbers don't always tell the entire story.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James guards Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant

LeBron James and Kobe Bryant's last matchup in 2016

Many Lakers fans and LeBron James’ supporters all remember the Kobe Bryant and James rivalry from 2007 onwards. Bryant was considered the best player in the league at that time, having secured three championships under his belt. Behind him was James, who was on a mission to dethrone Bryant and win titles as well.

The two legends had their share of unforgettable battles throughout their career. Bryant and James played 22 games against each other. Kobe won only 6 times while the current Laker came up on top 16 times.

The battles between these two were often showcased during NBA Christmas games — one of the biggest nights of the NBA’s regular season.

But if there’s one game that will always be remembered, it was Bryant’s last matchup against James that happened on March 10th, 2016. Their final match was held at Staples Center as the Cleveland Cavaliers (James’ team) defeated the Lakers (120-108), marking James’ last triumph against Bryant for the last time ever.

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LeBron finished the game with 24 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 blocks. Kobe dropped 26 points and added 5 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and a block.

Mutual respect

While many thought there was animosity between Bryant and James, the two had a strong bond and respected each other’s greatness.

In Bryant’s last game in Cleveland, he gifted James a pair of his Nikes that had his signature on the shoe. The two also bonded during the Olympics when they teamed up for Team USA twice in 2008 and 2012.

Their friendship wasn’t always pretty, but the respect was there at the end of the day because both players knew how great they were.

From one Laker to another

The most ironic thing for Lakers fans is that they went from hating James (because he was overshadowing Bryant) to now rooting for him as the former Cleveland Cavalier eventually decided to be next King of Laker land. Aside from leading the Lakers to a championship in 2020, James also promised Lakers Nation that he’d carry Bryant’s legacy when Kobe tragically passed away in 2020.

True to his words, James continues to honor Bryant every single year. It proves a point that maybe James wasn’t meant to dethrone Bryant but instead continue his legacy in the Purple and Gold.

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