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Sport LeBron's touching final tribute to icon Kobe

00:30  27 january  2020
00:30  27 january  2020 Source:   wwos.nine.com.au

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The day before Kobe Bryant died, LeBron James passed him for third place on the NBA's all-time point-scoring list. Then, he shared their story.

Kobe was a hero to LeBron as he grew up. LeBron attended an ABCD basketball camp as a 15-year-old and Kobe was there to impart some wisdom.

"I remember one thing that he said. He said that if you want to try to be great at it, or want to be one of the greats, you've got to put the work in," James recalled.

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It became known as Mamba Mentality. Relentless competitiveness. A drive for excellence, for world-beating success, that won Kobe five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals ... and later an Oscar.

One way or another, everyone who came in touch with Bryant was influenced by Mamba Mentality. For some poor teammates, it was being screamed at in practice. For millions of young basketball players around the world, it was watching the ballsy buzzer-beaters on TV, en route to another title. For LeBron, it was more personal.

Kobe Bryant holding a basketball: Kobe Bryant. An icon. © Getty Kobe Bryant. An icon.

LeBron first met Kobe in 2001, in Philadelphia before the NBA All Star game. Bryant personally gave him a pair of red, white and blue Kobe sneakers, which LeBron wore despite them being a size too small; 14 to his 15.

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Kobe was a hero. Then a peer.

"Then as competitors, just seeing the work ethic that he put into the game," LeBron said.

"He had zero flaws offensively. Zero. You backed off of him, he could shoot the three. You body him up a little bit, he could go around you. He could shoot the mid-range, he could post, he could make free throws.

"He had zero flaws offensively and that's something I admired as well, just being at a point where the defence would always be at bay, where they couldn't guard you at all offensively, where you just felt like you were immortal offensively, because of your skill set and your work ethic."

They became Redeem Team teammates for the Beijing 2008 Olympics, winning gold, then again at London 2012. After three NBA championships and four MVP awards elsewhere, LeBron became a Laker, following in Kobe's footsteps.

When LeBron passed Kobe's 33,643 NBA points, it was back in Philadelphia, where their story began. The world works in mysterious ways.

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"I'm happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players to ever play, one of the all-time greatest Lakers. The man got two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It's just crazy," LeBron said.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B7xOgFjnuiO/?utm_source=ig_embed&

LeBron's face shone as he recalled his time with Kobe. Now, devastation. For him, and for the basketball world.

On board the helicopter that crashed in Calabasas, California, was his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, plus another girl with a parent. Gianna was a talented young player, who loved taking tuition from her dad. They were travelling to a game.

a man wearing a hat: Kobe Bryant with daughter Gianna after winning the 2009 NBA championship. © Getty Kobe Bryant with daughter Gianna after winning the 2009 NBA championship.

The legacy is immense, from the Kobe and Shaq dynasty to the two rings as the Lakers' undisputed No.1 man. He was the Finals MVP in 2009 and 2010, the league MVP in 2008.

He was an 18-time All Star. An 11-time All-NBA First Team member. A dual scoring champion. But that doesn't really capture it.

Kobe was a cultural icon. He was the heir to Michael Jordan, the king who handed his crown to LeBron. He was the man who never flinched, no matter how big the game. He was a shoot-first assassin who preferred to destroy the opposition, rather than merely beat them.

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He was the man who tore his Achilles, then limped out to shoot his free throws before embarking on a maniacal rehab program that would allow him to return to the NBA and score 60 points in his final game; an unforgettable farewell against the Utah Jazz in 2016.

He was the icon who had both No.8 and No.24 retired by the mighty Lakers. If you split his career between the jerseys, he might have made the Basketball Hall of Fame twice.

Kobe Bryant, Barack Obama standing next to a person in a suit and tie: Kobe Bryant at the White House with Barack Obama after winning the 2009 NBA championship. © Getty Kobe Bryant at the White House with Barack Obama after winning the 2009 NBA championship.

Kobe Bryant was one of a kind. An inimitable beacon of how hard work and desire - with no small dose of talent - begets excellence that crosses cultural boundaries. We will never see his like again and basketball is devastated by his loss.

Pictures: Kobe Bryant's life

LeBron's heart-wrenching tribute to Kobe .
LeBron James has delivered one of the most iconic moments of his career, fighting tears when paying tribute to Kobe Bryant.James' speech was a part of a powerful pre-game tribute from the Lakers to the man who delivered five NBA titles to the franchise, as he ditched his pre-written speech to speak from the heart.

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