Perhaps no current NBA player has taken in more criticism over the last few years than LeBron James, and for good reason. He's set a high standard for his output, promising championships, aligning himself with two of the best players in the NBA along the way.
But he still has a long way to go, in terms of career-long kvetching, to catch Kobe Bryant. Both in terms of team-based glories (Bryant has been a major part of five championship teams), and individual accolades (Kobe Bryant is freakin' awesome). And Bryant, to his credit, is asking all of us to leave James alone.
From the Sun-Sentinel:
"I think people need to lay off that kid, that's what I think," Bryant said of James. "I've gotten to know him pretty well, playing with the Olympic team, and I think they just need to back off him and just let him play and let him live his life and let him make his decisions and let him mature as a player."
"It's tough to be under the microscope like that all the time," Bryant said. "So, I would like everybody to just back off of him and just let him play."
So, yeah ... that's incredibly cool of you, Kobe.
Bryant could have pointed toward James' shortcomings in the fourth quarter during June's NBA Finals. Sure, LeBron was the driving fourth-quarter difference in his team's defeat of the defending Eastern Conference champs from Boston and the NBA's best regular-season team from Chicago, but he appeared to have no clue in the fourth quarter once the Finals rolled around. Blame matchups, his Magic Johnson-isms, whatever -- I do. The guy saw a streak of light and followed it while he dragged an otherwise 20-win Cleveland team to the Finals in 2007. He can pull great things off. He disappointed though, terribly, in 2011.
Bryant knows the sting, though. On and off court. He remembers 1997, and he remembers 2006. He knows promise, he knows living up to mediocre expectation (as it was when his team was 20-win quality), and he knows how tough it is to lose in the Finals (as Kobe has done, twice).
And for him to call off the dogs on what should be his biggest rival? It's incredibly cool of Mr. Bryant.
Now, just lose the soccer thing. We need those legs in top kit whenever the next season starts, Kobe.
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