Bryant's exact words, “I’d win, I’d win...That’s what I do. One-on-one is..that’s easy for me, you know. Playing one-on-one is how I grew up playing, it’s like my thing. LeBron is more like a Magic Johnson, he’s a great passer and plays an all-around game. At the core of me, I’m a one-on-one player. I’d do that in my sleep.”
This is sure to fan the flames of the fans who believe that LeBron has passed Bryant as the consensus world's best player. Bryant is not without confidence, that much is certain, but one has to ask if this was a bit a gamesmanship on the part of Bryant.
Bryant knows that everyone has been waiting for a showdown between he and James for the better part of three years. That of course hasn't happened. If anyone has been paying attention, however, the likelihood of that showdown increased exponentially when James joined forces with Wade and Bosh in South Beach.
Irresistible Force vs. Immovable Object
In a true game of one-on-one, one has to suspect that the game might first come down to who took the ball out first.
If James, Bryant might have a hard time preventing James from backing his way down to the hoop and scoring at will.
If Bryant, James might have a hard time staying with Bryant's never-ending variety of moves, the fadeaway, and his perimeter game.
In a games such as this, it's possible that neither would miss a shot, as such, game over.
James is a competent defender, but truly excels off the ball and in the chase-down. When focused, Bryant's defensive skills are second to none, and yet, James is so much bigger than he is.
If either missed, it could change the outcome of the game.
This is the ultimate hypothetical and a fan's wet dream: What if? But with the exception of a "Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago"-like exhibition or a video game, it will never happen.
The teams may meet, but it wouldn't, however, exactly be one-on-one. Everyone knows this including the savvy Bryant, who as confident as he is in his own abilities, may be increasingly confident in the prowess of his team.
Bryant tempered the statement a bit by acknowledging James' skills as a passer and all-around player in the vein of Magic Johnson. And I suspect he was being a bit tongue-in-cheek saying what was necessary to play to the crowd, but Bryant, post-Colorado, is nothing if not careful with the words that come out of his mouth.
Everything since is seemingly calculated and measured to land right down the middle, neither too harsh nor to soft.
Bryant, however, also knows that this is a new age of information and as such his words would travel around the world the moment he spoke them. So what was his true message?
Perhaps the message was intended to say to James and the Heat, having recently emerged from military bunkers in South Florida, that "I'm still here, my team is still here, we're ready and waiting."
Given all of James' media missteps of late, one has to wonder how or if he will respond. A not-too-distant tweet by James alerted everyone about his displeasure.
Via Twitter James said, “Don't think for one minute that I haven't been keeping mental notes of everyone taking shots at me. And I mean everyone."
While hardly a shot, Bryant had to know this and yet, he threw down the gauntlet anyway. That, in and of itself, speaks volumes.