Two of the greatest players in the history of the NBA squared off for the final time Thursday night, but it was memories of a time spent together that LeBron James cherishes most when he reflects on the career of Kobe Bryant. After the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 120-108 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, James said his No. 1 Kobe experience was playing together on Team USA during the 2008 Olympics. “We took that very seriously,” James told TNT’s Ric Bucher. “We knew we wanted to represent and get Team USA back on the top.” Bryant and James first united for the 2004 Games, a disastrous showing by Team USA standards, which ended with a bronze medal. The 2008 squad was dubbed the “Redeem Team” with Bryant serving as team captain and James as the vocal leader of Team USA.
“[Kobe and I] kind of set the tone,” James said. “We went out every single game, represented Team USA with the utmost respect and competed every single day. It was an honor.”
The Redeem Team swept the preliminary round and finished the tournament 8-0 to bring home the gold and reclaim its place atop the global basketball landscape.
Now, eight years later, James is on a quest to lead the Cavaliers to their first NBA title while Bryant is riding off into the sunset.
With the win on Thursday, James improved to 16-6 head-to-head against Bryant, but the legendary Laker recorded a vintage performance of his own, shooting 11-of-16 from the floor and outscoring LeBron, 26-24.
“I wish I could play against him every single night,” James told the assembled media.