Kobe Bryant made his final appearance at Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday night in the Los Angeles Lakers' 120-111 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and LeBron James took time to reflect on what the Black Mamba means to him following the game.
Speaking to reporters, LeBron discussed his respect for the mentality Kobe brings to the court each night, according to Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding:
KEVIN DING @KevinDing
LeBron on what he admires most about Kobe: "His competitive nature. ... It's something that's in you that gets you to that level."2016-2-11 04:18:55
Bryant also had kind words for LeBron after their final battle in Northeast Ohio.
"His greatest strength is his ability to communicate with others and instill confidence in others," Bryant said, according to Ding.
Just before tipoff, Bryant's introduction was accompanied by a show of respect from James and several other Cavaliers players:
As if that wasn't enough, a packed Quicken Loans Arena gave Bryant a standing ovation as he checked out one final time in Cleveland and embraced James by the Lakers bench:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Cavaliers fans pay their respects to Kobe after his last game in Cleveland. #KobevsLeBron https://t.co/ZdLUSHvJbM2016-2-11 04:29:42
Following Wednesday's win, James spoke with ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters and praised the Cleveland faithful for showering Bryant with applause after he was introduced for the final time, as NBA TV documented:
NBA TV @NBATV
Hear from @KingJames after tonight's win and what he had to say about Kobe Bryant's last visit to Cleveland. https://t.co/uTvelXdMnQ2016-2-11 04:00:27
The good news for sentimental NBA fans is that LeBron and Kobe are slated to share the floor two more times this season.
While the next occasion will take place in an exhibition setting, the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in Toronto should provide James and Bryant another shot to renew their friendly rivalry—even if it is at half-speed.
Then on March 10 (10:30 p.m. ET on TNT), the Lakers and Cavaliers will meet at Staples Center as Bryant embarks on the final month of his playing career.
Their back-and-forth battles may not be as thrilling as they once were, but hope remains that Kobe can hark back to his glory days and put on one more thrilling display against James.