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The Los Angeles Lakers discovered this summer that there’s no such thing as dreaming too big.
But we’re taking things a step further here. In the spirit of grandiose hopes, we’re daydreaming about acquiring a time machine capable of linking the last Lakers superstar, Kobe Bryant, with the new one, James.
Matt Barnes believes “it would be dope” if Kobe came out of retirement to play with LeBron, per TMZ, but we’re more interested in how the two would’ve played together in their primes.
What would have happened if instead of Bryant passing the purple-and-gold torch to James, the two could have carried it together?
From the preferred play style and supporting cast to the ideal setting and potential for this theoretical partnership, we’re covering all angles of how Kobe and LeBron—KoBron? LeBrobe?—would have fit alongside one another.
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Even though Bryant entered the league seven seasons before James, they shared an overlapping tenure atop the basketball world.
Bryant won his two scoring titles in 2005-06 and 2006-07. James captured his first and only the following season. Bryant’s lone MVP award came in 2007-08. The very next year, James started his run of four MVPs in five seasons.
Pairing them together somewhere between 2006 and 2008 is tempting, because both were fully fledged superstars at the time. Not to mention, each was a highlight waiting to happen, so their aerial exploits would have transformed the hardwood into a Cirque du Soleil stage.
But balancing the two alphas back then may have been an impossible task. James was in his early 20s and still establishing his NBA identity. Bryant was feverishly chasing his post-Shaquille O’Neal title and the legacy boost of being the marquee name on a champion.
Skip forward a few years, though, and 2010 looks like the ideal time to bring them together.
That’s the summer of The Decision, when James left Northeast Ohio to grow both as a person and a player. He later described his journey away from home as being “like college for other kids.” The exit also allowed him to take full control of his career and embark on a championship chase.
While he obviously picked the Miami Heat, there were whispers he had eyes on Los Angeles. Bryant, who had just collected his second straight ring and Finals MVP, surely would have accepted the assistance with his 32nd birthday approaching.
Let’s put James and Bryant on the 2010-11 Lakers, then, only with one major change: Phil Jackson can’t be the coach. For starters, Jackson’s preferred triangle offense would fail to maximize James’ talents. Plus, their relationship turned messy before they even had one, so it’s probably best to stay away even in the hypothetical realm.
James and Bryant would need a coach they respect and one who is adaptable enough to build a system around their skills. Someone like Tyronn Lue would fit. He was a year removed from his playing career by this point, but he had spent the previous season as the Boston Celtics director of basketball development.
Lue won a ring with Bryant in 2001 and said they shared “a bond that can’t be broken,” per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. When the Cleveland Cavaliers made Lue their head coach in January 2016, James said they had “been friends since I was 17 years old” but made it clear “he’s still the coach and I’m underneath him,” per Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon.
Lue’s history with both players gives him the best chance of holding them accountable and actually coaching them. With the head coach in place, our James-and-Bryant-led Lakers need a plan of attack.
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System is a relative term as it relates to players of this ilk. Simpler strategies allow superstars to take over.
“You can drop me anywhere and I’m going to get you 25, 30 points, you know what I’m saying?” Bryant told USA Today‘s Sam Amick in 2012. “So what offenses do, really, is that it has to be something that helps out the role players more than anything. Because when