LeBron James is probably one of the biggest Kobe Bryant fans out there.
Even dating back to high school.
In a picture dating back to the early 2000s, James was spotted wearing a black No. 8 Kobe Bryant jersey with the word Los Angeles written in cursive lettering.
James completed the look with a black New Era Lakers hat and a custom black leather jacket designed by Jeff Hamilton.
If you’ve paid attention to NBA fashion over the last 30-35 years, Jeff Hamilton jackets have been a staple. The Lakers wore them after they won their NBA Championships in the early 2000s with dominant center, Shaquille O’Neal and the late Kobe Bryant. that had all 30 NBA teams plastered on it.
“Kobe was to LeBron what Michael Jordan was to MJ,” Jeff Hamilton told me by text message Wednesday evening.
“In fact LeBron wore Kobe shoes in high school. I know because I owned LeBron’s Adidas Kobe shoes.”
Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash that took the lives of nine people, including Bryant’s daughter, Gigi on Sunday, January 26.
His death happened the day after LeBron James passed Bryant on the NBA’s all-time scoring list in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Los Angeles Lakers were on an East Coast swing with stops in New York to play the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks, in Boston to play the Celtics, and in Philly. The Lakers were supposed to fly back following the Sixers’ game, but they didn’t leave the arena until after midnight.
“We ain’t going home tonight, we’re going home tomorrow,” I overheard LeBron James yell in the Wells Fargo Center’s visiting locker room following their 108-91 loss to the Sixers.
James finished that game with 29 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists.
When the Lakers returned to the hotel, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant spoke on the phone and exchanged pleasantries in what would be their last phone conversation.
The Lakers flew home from Philadelphia on Sunday, January 26, the day of Bryant’s death. When TMZ broke the news of Bryant’s death, members of the Lakers were 30,000 feet in the air.
“He was my idol, as well as LeBron’s,” Lakers guard, Troy Daniels told me.
“I was telling people not to take away from Kobe, but I was telling my teammates because me and him are around the same age and like bro, let’s be honest. This guy sitting right here, he’s an idol too. Let’s not take for granted what we have in our presence right now. I know Kobe is gone, let’s not take for granted the idol sitting right here in front of us. And it was powerful. It really hurt.
“It’s never a closure,” LeBron James said earlier this week.
“It’s never going to be a closure. I mean, we continue to live on his legacy and continue to have our hearts heavy with both sadness and with happiness for his family that are still here. So it’s not a closure. But it was a celebration which was well received from not only the Laker faithful, not only the family here, but everybody around the world.”
Kobe Bryant is a five-time NBA Finals MVP award winner, the NBA’s regular-season MVP in 2008, a four-time NBA All-Star MVP, q two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist, an NBA Slam Dunk Champion, 11-time All-NBA First Team recipient and a two-time NBA scoring champion.
He wore numbers 8 and 24, both of which were retired by the Los Angeles Lakers organization.