The Black Mamba’s relentless hard work, ambition, and skill should be remembered over his entire 20-year career. However, there was magic to Kobe Bryant, an ineffable shimmer that followed him on the court, like the basketball gods shined down on him. He became the first guard to ever play two decades’ worth of basketball. Despite injuries and athletic decline, Bryant somehow went out on the perfect note, becoming the oldest player to ever score 60 points, which he did in his very last game. He achieved the mark in typical Kobe fashion, personally outscoring the Utah Jazz 23-21 in the fourth quarter en route to a 101-96 victory. Simply put: it was the perfect ending.
Can LeBron Live Up To Kobe’s Lakers Legacy?
LeBron James’ place in Lakers history has already been cemented, having brought a championship back to Los Angeles. If he and Anthony Davis return to full strength, they are the favorites to repeat as champions. Something the Lakers franchise hasn’t personally done since 2009-2010.
After tragically passing in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020, at the age of 41, it seemed like destiny that Los Angeles would take home the Larry O’Brien trophy in his name.
No one in Lakers history can surpass Kobe Bryant’s legacy. But LeBron can try and live up to it. Here’s how that happens:
1. Win multiple championships
In an ideal world, LeBron James will end his run as the best basketball player in the world with a three-peat of the Larry O’Brien trophy in Los Angeles.
Kobe, it should be remembered, only won two as the sole undisputed leader of the Lakers, but added weight was given to one of them as it was done in classic fashion over longtime rival Boston Celtics.
If LeBron James is to be even mentioned in the same breath as Kobe in the lore of Lakers legends, he must bring at least two championships back to LA.
Granted, this year has had its obstacles with both LeBron and AD injured, and the Lakers are slipping in the standings. If they end up having to face any one of the top seeds in the Western Conference in round one of the playoffs, that could prove to be an extremely tough task.
2. Win an MVP award
The NBA seems to hate LeBron James.
Through the first half of every season of the 2010s, it seems like James was leading in the MVP race, only to be dethroned at the last second by a ‘better storyline’. Either Russell Westbrook averaging a triple-double for the season, or Giannis Antetokounmpo’s eye-popping numbers were enough to derail the King’s campaign.
They are all proven wrong in the postseason.
There has been a legitimate excuse for LeBron James’ MVP snubs in multiple years. However, for the sake of his legacy with the Lakers, James needs to put it all on the regular season to satisfy the pundits enough to grant him the same award that eluded Bryant for so many years.
If he can prove to the casual fan that he is the best player in the league, with at least one MVP award while he’s in Los Angeles, it would do a lot for his case as a Laker great.
3. Break the scoring record
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the greatest center in Lakers history, even ahead of Shaquille O’Neal. Over his tenure with the Lakers, the enigma known as ‘The Captain’ won five championships alongside fellow franchise legend Magic Johnson and one MVP award. While not as synonymous with the Lakers as Magic or Kobe, Kareem is notable for his high-unbeatable career scoring tally, which tops the all-time NBA leaderboard at 38,387 points. Thought to be unassailable, no player since Michael Jordan has come close to even sniffing that record, except for one:
James, however, has surpassed Kobe (33,643) in career points scored, with 35,283. If he only averages 20 points per game over the next three seasons, and averages at least 70 games played, he will have the record in hand, surpassing Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to be the leading scorer in NBA history.
If he breaks Kareem’s unattainable record, it would cement his place among the hallowed halls of Lakers history. Partnered with at least one MVP and one more championship, LeBron James will have proven to measure up and at least approach Kobe Bryant’s place on the mountaintop of Lakers legends.
By coming to Los Angeles in the first place, the King has invited that weight upon himself. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.