According to the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant(notes) sent a little shot LeBron James'(notes) way last year, though we can't actually tell by which means of communication:
Before the just-completed season began, I was recounting Bryant's own story back to him — an underpublicized and deeply revealing anecdote of direct interaction between the NBA's two interplanetary luminaries during LeBron James' summer shift away from Cleveland.
Bryant's Lakers beating the Celtics in Game 7 finished the story of the 2009-10 season before James' navigation of free agency hijacked the headlines. So Bryant detached himself from celebrating the championship he now admits means more to him than any of his previous four because of how hard-earned it was to offer a message to LeBron that could never have come from anyone but.
It went like this from Kobe:
"Go ahead and get another MVP, if you want. And find the city you want to live in. But we're going to win the championship. Don't worry about it."
I've read the column a few times now, and I still don't get how this message was relayed. Did Kobe say this to the press, and/or to Kevin Ding on record? Did he text LeBron this? Was it just an ideal that Ding, one of the best NBA scribes out there, summarized as he usually, expertly, does?
Either way, it still looks pretty foolish following 2010-11. I like the confidence, but Kobe messed up this year as much as James did. And if this were any other player besides Kobe (or, more accurately, besides LeBron) leading a potentially great team, we'd be up in arms at the thought of a guy who was swept out of the second round having his cocky assumptions repeated regarding someone who was two wins away from a championship.
LeBron failed his team in the Finals. There's no way around it. And during the regular season, he often betrayed his own talents by not playing up to his potential. But Bryant did the same thing, in both the regular season (forcing a pennywise but pound-foolish offense and chucking more than he has in years) and the playoffs, as Los Angeles struggled in the first round against New Orleans and failed to take a game against a Mavericks team that Miami fell to on Sunday.
So, it's cute, and we admire the hubris, but only Bryant is in LeBron's tree right now. An incredibly talented superstar who knew better, but decided to play the martyr while watching Dirk Nowitzki's(notes) Mavs do everything right. And if people in the comment section want to turn this into a lame Kobe vs. LeBron fight (though it should be pointed out that LeBron-led teams in Miami and Cleveland have beaten the Lakers the last four times they've played), that's their prerogative, and their waste of time.
Both of these guys screwed up this year. Dirk Nowitzki, full of spinning lay-ins and free-throw attempts, did not.