The Rivalry That Never Was. Kobe vs LeBron

       

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Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, two of the three most talked about players in NBA History, with Michael Jordan being the other, continue to dazzle our eyes with great inseason matchups that will never translate into a much anticipated NBA Finals series.

Once LeBron ascended into a top tier player fans of the game dreamed of an NBA series that involved both LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. LeBron, like Kobe, was suppose to be the second coming of Jordan. Both Kobe and LeBron acknowledged Michael Jordan as their idol and a player they wanted to be like. LeBron adopted Jordan’s number while Kobe adopted Michael’s game and body language. Once Kobe and Shaq broke up people talked about four things, Kobe, Shaq, Duncan and LeBron. LeBron was asserting himself as an elite NBA player. He led his Cavaliers to the Playoffs and had memorable series against the Wizards and Pistons early. During that tenure LeBron James was anointed the nickname King James.

On the other side of the U.S. Kobe Bryant led his teams to the Playoffs and had memorable series against the Phoenix Suns. Each player had little to no help en route to leading their teams to the playoffs. After the 2006-2007 season (which was the year LeBron lost to the Spurs in the Finals), the Kobe LeBron Finals matchup seemed more realistic.

The following year Boston got Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, L.A got Pau Gasol, Atlanta got Mike Bibby, Dallas got Jason Kidd and Phoenix got Shaq. Not only did those trades change the NBA landscape they made the Kobe and LeBron matchup a little bit more realistic. With J-Kidd and Shaq heading out West that paved the way for LeBron and his Cavs to move up into the upperechelon of the Eastern Conference. With the Lakers acquiring Pau Gasol they became the team to beat out West.

During the Playoffs that year LeBron and his Cavs took Boston to seven games and lost while Kobe and his new sidekick, Gasol, went all the way to the NBA Finals in a matchup with Boston. Eventually the Lakers lost and had a dreadful offseason.

Before the start of the 08-09 season LeBron’s team brought in Mo Williams to help propel them to another level. To help solidify their roster even more Cleveland pulled off a trade to bring in Ben Wallace and Delonte West. After bringing those guys in talks of a Kobe vs LeBron Finals matchup intensified. After having signed both LeBron and Kobe to lucrative deals Nike started making commercials about the two meeting in the Finals. Once Playoff time came around all eyes were on LeBron and Kobe. Each player led their team to the Conference Finals but only one advanced to the NBA Finals.

LeBron and Co. faced an Orlando Magic team led by Dwight Howard. In six hard fought games the Magic outlasted the Cavaliers and sent LeBron home in the process. Kobe on the other hand, led his team past a Nuggets team that featured Carmelo Anthony. After six tough games against Denver Kobe went on to the Finals where he beat the Magic and earned his fourth ring.

Weeks after the Lakers celebrated their Championship Parade, the Cavaliers did a trade with the Phoenix Suns to bring in Shaq. Days later the Lakers sign Ron Artest. Players, fans,coaches and analysts got the sense that a Kobe and LeBron series had become inevitable. Both teams started the season off strong. Even with the great start, Cleveland felt like they needed to give LeBron more help. At the trade deadline Cleveland did a trade that brought in Antwan Jamison. GMs and Experts said that move made Cleveland the best team in the league. Weeks later the Nike commercials came back campaigning for a LeBron and Kobe showdown. People around the world got hyped up and excited until the Playoffs came around. In the 2nd round of the Playoffs the Cavaliers lost to the Boston Celtics, who go on to lose to the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

While Kobe is having fun with his 5th ring, LeBron bolts Cleveland and signs with the Miami Heat to play alongside Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Now that LeBron had Wade and Bosh nothing was suppose to keep him playing in the Finals against Kobe Bryant. Once again people anticipated a Kobe and LeBron Finals matchup, until the Dallas Mavericks shocked the world. On four magical wins the Mavericks swept the defending NBA Champions in round two of the Western Conference Playoffs.

Instead of a Kobe and LeBron showdown fans got a Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade rematch. The end result being LeBron goes home ringless and Kobeless yet again. Last year LeBron led his team to victory in the Finals against the arguably the best scorer the game has ever seen in Kevin Durant, and the OKC Thunder, who happened to beat Kobe and the Lakers two rounds earlier.

During the offseason the Heat picked up Ray Allen and the Lakers traded for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to make one last push to the NBA Finals while Kobe is still in play. Fast-Forward about six months and we’ll be where we are today. We have the Miami Heat as the top dog in the league while the Lakers are like a lost puppy finding their way, while struggling to keep pace with the nine teams ahead of them in the Playoff Race. LeBron and Kobe have been in each of the past six NBA Finals without matching up against each other. Six straight years without one heated series between the two. We may have had some scoring battles between the two from 05-06 to 07-08  (http://www.nbauniverse.com/awards/nba_scoring_leader_year.htm),  and some nice two games matchups during the course of regular seasons between the two but thats not a true rivalry. Rivalries are made thru Playoff Series. Kobe and LeBron haven’t been in one against each other and don’t play each other enough during the season to even start one.

So stop with all the Kobe and LeBron rivalry stuff. Kobe has no true rival and LeBron doesn’t either. Kobe’s career is on the downside while LeBron’s is up North. It’s time to face the fact: Their paths will never cross.

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