Kobe Bryant is a future Hall of Famer and set to join Los Angeles Lakers royalty when his Nos. 8 and 24 jerseys are retired Monday at the Staples Center, but one part of his legacy is his influence on younger generations.
LeBron James—the best player in the generation that ushered in the post-Kobe and post-Michael Jordan era of the NBA—made that perfectly clear Monday with a shout-out before the Lakers retire the jerseys during halftime of their game against the Golden State Warriors:
There was plenty of overlap between the two players' careers, considering James was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft and Bryant didn't retire until 2016 after 20 seasons in the league, but fans never saw what would have been a highly anticipated showdown in the NBA Finals.
Instead, Bryant's Lakers reached the Finals in 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010 while James was still establishing his footing as the dominant force in the Eastern Conference, and James' Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers have been to the seven NBA Finals since 2010 while Bryant's prime slipped into the rearview mirror.
The connection between Bryant and James was a metaphorical passing of the torch, much like it was when Bryant was the young up-and-comer as Jordan's career was winding down.
Their puppets even spent time with each other, as Bryant shared before James offered his praise:
James and NBA fans across the country will have the chance to reminisce on Bryant's most memorable moments Monday as two of his jerseys join some of the greatest players in the sport's history in the Staples Center rafters, including Magic Johnson, Jerry West and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Now it is James inspiring the next generation of stars with his basketball brilliance, but the Cavaliers great didn't let Bryant's special day pass without reminding everyone about the career-long Laker's influence on his own career.