Wob: The Most Impressive Part of LeBron James Passing Kobe Bryant on the NBA’s All-Time Scoring List
Photo credit: John McCoy/Getty Images. Pictured: LeBron James and Kobe Bryant
After LeBron James put up 27 points Thursday evening against Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets, he now sits just 18 points from passing Kobe Bryant to reach third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
He’ll likely do so on Saturday night, as the Lakers are in Philadelphia — Kobe’s hometown, by the way — for a prime time matchup.
Let’s put this milestone into context by talking about how Lakers fans should feel, how LeBron should pay homage to Kobe, what’s next for LeBron and more.
If you’re a Lakers fan, how should you feel?
I have no right to be the judge and jury of your emotions. Feel what you want to feel, regardless of other’s opinions; there is no correct or wrong answer.
What I can do, however, is tell you a story.
I grew up a die-hard University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill basketball fan. Every dribble acted as the pacemaker of my heartbeat. I crawled through the Kris Lang, Jason Capel, Joe Forte days and came out the other side clean. I say this next statement with all sincerity: There was not, nor may there ever be, a college basketball player I hated more than JJ Redick.
There were plenty of Dookies who were worthy of being the nation’s biggest villain, but Redick was undoubtedly number one. The combination of him being so good, so obnoxious, so Duke — I mean just the epitome of someone you’d imagine attending Duke — and staying in school all four years elevated him past Christian Laettner in my eyes. I carried this grudge through my tenure as a student at UNC all the way through until 2017.
But then something happened: I got a job working in the NBA industry and ran into him at a deli near a studio we shared. We were introduced to each other through a mutual party, and I just came out and said it: “Before you say anything, I have to tell you to your face that I despise you more than any basketball player on Earth not named Reggie Miller.”
He rolled with the punches perfectly, alluding to the fact he gets that a lot, and spoke humbly about his experience. He gave me the time of day when I probably didn’t deserve it, and even took the time to educate me on his motivations. Within 15 minutes, I regret to inform my friends, family and fellow alumni that I had done a complete 180 on him. He is a genuine, authentic dude who was just doing his job. There’s no other way to put it. I now find myself, ugh, rooting for him because I don’t know if I would have been as big of a man as him if I were in his position when confronted by a stranger looking to start some shit.
The reason for telling you this story is 1) always appreciate greatness when you have the opportunity to experience it first-hand, and 2) because I understand Lakers fans are still fractured into a three-front civil war: LeBron worshipers, who will follow him to the ends of the Earth, no matter what team he’s on. All that matters is LeBron playing well; if the team he’s on loses, it’s not his fault. We get it.
Then there is House Kobe. These are the crusaders of the Lakers’ Mount Rushmore: Magic, Kareem, West, Shaq and Kobe. If you’re not a true, lifelong, committed-to-the-cause Laker, you do not have this party’s support. This includes LeBron James. These are the people who are vandalizing LeBron’s murals across the city. The people who spam every LeBron achievement with Kobe highlights and memes. L.A.’s Sons of Harpy.
And somewhere in the middle: Lakers fans who just want the team to be great no matter who plays for them or what the cost is.
No matter where you fall, here’s all that matters: They’re Lakers. You are the only franchise who can even have this problem, if you want to call it that. LeBron may not be a ‘true Laker’ just yet, or ever, but the fact James is doing it as a member of your favorite team should be a celebration.