Found January 17, 2013 on Fox Sports West:
Watch closely Thursday. Watch LeBron James continue to carry his team on the road, where they have struggled but he has been magnificent, game after game, day after day, his greatness still somehow expanding and crystallizing before us. Watch Kobe Bryant, too, as he tries to carry his floundering Lakers squad by willing them and himself to places he can still go but now they cannot. Watch, because it is the closest we are likely to get to what should have been. Remember Bird-Magic? Remember Wilt-Russell? Remember the idea of the two players most dominating their era facing one another in the playoffs in the Finals and infusing the game itself with some of their transcendent power? There was a time when it was like gravity, the knowledge they would find one another. It was magnetic. It was destiny. The greatest found ways to face each other on the biggest stage, and then, and only then, did their greatness come into such sharp relief that it changed the game, and them, and us, too. That will not happen. Not in this decade. Not in this era. Not, at least, for Kobe and LeBron. There will be no Finals meeting, no playoff faceoff, no coming-together under the klieg lights of postseason basketball under which basketball itself shines brighter because those two stars so often orbited by everyone else come suddenly into contact on the court. We have been robbed of that, somehow. We will not have our own Magic-Bird even if we have been given players of that magnitude at the same time who have each been championship-caliber. Kobe Bryant and his 30,619 points? They will almost certainly not face LeBron James and a level of play that has earned LeBron three MVP awards. Not outside of regular-season games like Thursday nights, when the Heat head to Staples Center to play a 17-21 Lakers team that is simply lost. The Lakers are too much of a mess, too much of an old damn team, to use Kobes words, so lowly they are more concerned now about making the playoffs than making the NBA Finals. The Heat, despite their recent struggles, are the clear favorites for another Finals berth, but the Western Conference is a mountain the Lakers almost surely can no longer climb. It is too steep and they are too feeble for the task. Too many teams rise above them. The Thunder, the Clippers, the Spurs, the Grizzlies, perhaps even the Warriors all are obstacles the Lakers would be unlikely to best, if they even get the chance. No, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James will not have that moment in the Finals to face one another down and battle, head-to-head, will-to-will, for a title. Not this year and probably not ever, given the Lakers' age and issues. If this seems inconceivable, its because it kind of is. Either LeBron or Kobe has played in each of the past six NBA Finals. They are the best players of this decade, and until Kevin Durant emerged to edge out (maybe) Kobe they were the best two players in the league year after year. Both Kobe and LeBron will finish their careers as top 10 all-time players, all-time greats who shined at the same time, won and made NBA Finals at the same time, but somehow could not do so against the other. Everyone expected this confrontation. Nike did a series of Kobe-LeBron trash-talking puppet commercials in 2009. Talking heads spoke of the eventuality with reverential certainty. I moved from Kansas City to Miami two years ago to cover Miami's new super team, and my FOXSports.com colleague encamped with the Lakers that same season, because we were so sure those teams were on a collision course for one another. But no. LeBron could not get past a young Dwight Howard in 2009 or the old Celtics in 2010, and when, finally, his version of the Big Three trumped the Celtics and all other Eastern Conference comers in 2011 the Lakers could not withstand the Dallas Mavericks. Same thing last year when LeBron won his first title and Kobe couldn't keep up with the young Thunder. So watch tonight and see what might have been. Watch LeBron James in perhaps the greatest season he has ever had trying single-handedly to sober up a Heat team reeling, still, from a severe championship hangover. Watch Kobe try to place on his shoulders a group of guys who are not right together by shooting shot after shot, racking up point after point, doing all he can to squeeze from his aging greatness and unrivaled passion a team that is worthy of his talents and his desire. Watch a natural-born killer (Kobe) and a prodigy still finding his assassins edge (LeBron) stalk one another, play after play, two giants of the game so large that on the same stage in the same space they somehow make everyone else bigger, too. Watch and try to enjoy it even if it is a January game, not the June version we deserve. Does it matter that LeBron is 11-6 against Kobe Bryant in regular-season games and that he has won 10 of the past 13? Or that he has outscored him in 10 of those 17 matchups? It does. It does because its the closest well get to seeing the two greatest players of their era play one another in a way that counts. LeBron is fighting to get his team right on the road, Kobe to get his team right at all. They will both be playing for something beyond their own stats or egos. They will not look past the other, January or otherwise. So watch tonight and see what will not be, and what should have been, and enjoy it. Enjoy two greats of the game whose time together on the NBA stage is drawing to an end, without the final scene we have all waited for, leaving us now with the near-certainty well never see Kobe-vs.-LeBron outside nights like tonight. You can follow Bill Reiter on Twitter or email him at foxsportsreiter@gmail.com.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
RELATED ARTICLES

LeBron James Becomes Youngest Player to Reach 20,000 Career Points, Also Records 5,000th Assist

LeBron James added a few more accolades to his already illustrious career Wednesday night as his Miami Heat took the Golden State Warriors. He reached two career milestones, becoming the youngest player to ever reach 20,000 career points while also recording his 5,000th assist.  But it wouldn’t be enough if that was all he did, right? So, he gave us two ridiculous dunks in the...

LeBron James throws down fastbreak dunk against Lakers (Video)

Looking for the slam dunk of Thursday night in the NBA?Let us take you to Staples Center in Los Angeles as Miami Heat star LeBron James finished a fastbreak started by Heat guard Mario Chalmers with a rising one-handed slam dunk:

LeBron becomes youngest to reach 20K points

So LeBron James has broken Kobe Bryant's record for being the youngest player to score 20,000 points. But who will have more points at the end? The Miami star on Wednesday at Golden State reached the milestone at the age of 28 years, 17 days. That topped Bryant having done it for the Lakers on Dec. 23, 2007 at 29 years, 122 days old. James had 25 points in the Heat's 92...

Kobe Bryant Going to His 15th Straight All-Star Game

Forget about the nagging injuries for a moment.  Forget about the Los Angeles Lakers' poor season so far.  Forget about the hole that Kobe Bryant single-handedly must dig the Lakers out of.  Forget about ti all and appreciate the man's game.  Love him or hate him, there is no denying his talent.  This is proven in Bryant's record 15th-straight All-Star Game selection...

Kobe Bryant’s Q&A With ESPN

You versus LeBron? Who wins?: Me. No question. As far as one-on-one, I’m the best to ever do it. Who could get you?: Kevin Durant is the guy that would give me the most trouble. With his length and ability to use the dribble, he’d be tough. When was the last time you pumped your own gas?: Yesterday. I do all of life’s daily tasks. The other day my wife and I stopped at 7...

Kobe Bryant Needs Help Getting Open On Offense To Save Defensive Energy

Bryant, who leads the league in scoring at 29.7 points per game, said that alleviating some pressure on him on offense will in turn allow him to apply more pressure on defense. “If (guarding the opposing team’s offensive threat) is going to be something that I’m going to have to do for a while, I’m going to need my teammates’ help to free up offensively,” Bryant said...

Kobe Bryant gets new Nike commercial "#CountOnKobe" (Video)

The fine ad wizards over at Nike have put together some of the best advertising campaigns of all-time and this one for Lakers star Kobe Bryant is pretty impressive.The below commercial called "#CountOnKobe" shows that there are certain things that will always happen and I guess that Kobe is one of those things: I wonder if I could count on Brian Scalabrine?

Kobe Bryant Claims That He Has Never Lost A Game Of One-On-One

If you’re at a fan of basketball, it’s very hard to not respect someone like Kobe Bryant. Liking him is a who… [[ Read More ]]

Preview: Heat vs. Lakers

Thanks to Kobe Bryant's renewed commitment on defense, the Lakers (17-21) have been playing their best defense as a team the last 2 games, which coincedentally turned into 2 straight wins. A sign of good things to come for the Lakers? It better. Despite their improved defense, the Lakers are still 4 games below .500 and 3 full games behind the 8th seed Rockets in the west...

NBA All-Star Game Starters Announced

The NBA announced the starting lineups for the 62nd All-Star Game, and Lakers guard Kobe Bryant eked out the win in overall votes with 1,591,437 — 7,800 more than LeBron James. Bryant also now holds the record for most consecutive All-Star Game starts (15), a record he previously shared with Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone and Jerry West. Most of Bryant’s Western Conference teammates...

Aging Lakers might be catching their stride

It was probably only a matter of time before the Los Angeles Lakers got healthy and figured it out. Tuesday night, the Milwaukee Bucks just happened to be in their way. A sluggish offensive night, missed free throws and turnovers gave the Bucks little chance to compete with a Lakers group that seems to be hitting their stride. Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard combined for 62 points...

Heat at Lakers game preview

Game time: 10:30 p.m. ETTV: TNT After watching the Miami Heat ride their trio of superstars to last season's NBA championship, many believed the Los Angeles Lakers' pairing of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash with Kobe Bryant would put them on the same level. While things haven't exactly gone as planned, it appears the Lakers may finally be headed down the right path. Pau...

Tracy McGrady Say He Never Played Kobe One on One

In response to an interview Kobe Bryant did with ESPN, Tracy McGrady is refuting the claim that Kobe beat him 3 times in a game of one on one. McGrady says, they never even played at all. McGrady issued his denial of the event on his twitter page; “LOL Hell [...]
Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.