LeBron James thinks ESPN is wrong. For sure.
While the King was holding court on Twitter, he was asked if ESPN ranking Kobe Bryant the 25th-best player in the NBA was accurate. Not only did he disagree, he asserted that the Black Mamba was still a top-five player.
Before using his tweet as a means to prove he's signing with the Los Angeles Lakers next summer, remember that LeBron isn't the first player to speak out on Kobe's behalf. His top-five projection isn't even the most flattering correction; the Brooklyn Nets' Reggie Evans had Bean in the top three.
Still, LeBron's placement of Kobe is huge. And it's further proof ESPN whiffed on Kobe's finish.
This is now the unchallenged best player in the game calling Kobe a top-five star, when he has no incentive to. Kobe isn't LeBron's teammate, personal grubstaker or one-dessert, two-forks buddy. He's merely speaking the truth.
Don't be taken aback when Kobe doesn't hear or acknowledge the adulation, though. Praise isn't what he feeds off. Comments like LeBron's and Evans' might force him to crack a smile, but it's that dreaded number 25 he won't forget. Just like he hasn't forgotten ESPN predicted his Lakers would finish 12th in the Western Conference.
Well aware there are plenty of people expecting him to fail, expecting his team to stumble, these rankings will now become his obsession. He officially exists only to show he's still great and capable of carrying his Lakers to something more than a predetermined lottery finish.
This isn't me claiming to be inside the Mamba's head, either. It's Kobe's reputation, his merciless sense of competition preceding him.
It's his new Twitter avatar doing it's job.
LeBron's words mean something; each and every logical defense of Kobe means something. They're proof that he's still a prestigious figure amongst his peers. That he holds enough clout to generate an uproar of dissatisfaction when the situation warrants it.
What LeBron and the rest of Kobe's supporters haven't done is end this. It's not over.
Kobe is gunning for his player and team ranking. The Mamba has been poked. ESPN and the rest of his nonbelievers have been warned.