The results of this year’s NBA Finals seemed like a foregone conclusion. The Golden State Warriors clearly had more talent than the Cleveland Cavaliers as they swept LeBron James and company for their third championship in four years.
Much of the talk during the series centered around James, who received both criticism and praise as fans and media argue his place amongst the greatest to ever play the game. The debates of LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have never been more fierce than they were during the 2018 NBA Playoffs run.
Despite James’ best efforts in the Finals, the Cavaliers were clearly not at the level of the Warriors, but Bryant didn’t buy that as an excuse.
In recently speaking with Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, the five-time champion recalled advice that Jordan gave him following the 2008 NBA Finals:
“Michael gave me some really good advice after the ’08 Finals: ‘You got all the tools. You gotta figure out how to get these guys to that next level to win that championship.’ Going into the 2010 series, I said, ‘Listen, Boston, they got Ray Allen, they got Paul Pierce, they got [Kevin] Garnett, they got Sheed [Wallace], the talent is there. They’re stacked.’ That was the first superteam. [Michael] kind of heard me lament about it, and he just goes, ‘Yeah, well, it is what it is; you gotta figure it out. There’s no other alternative.’ And that’s the challenge LeBron has.”
Bryant continued on about what James has to do as a leader in order to help his teammates:
“You have pieces that you have to try to figure out how to work with. Excuses don’t work right now. It has everything to do with how you build the team, from an emotional level. How do you motivate them? … Leadership is not making guys better by just throwing them the ball. That’s not what it is. It’s about the influence that you have on them to reach their full potential. And some of it’s not pretty. Some of it’s challenging, some of it’s confrontational. Some of it’s pat on the back. But it’s finding that balance, so now when you show up to play a Golden State or a Boston, your guys feel like you have the confidence to take on more.”
After failing in 2008 Kobe and the Lakers would come back to win championships in 2009 and 2010 with the latter coming over those same Boston Celtics that defeated the Lakers two years earlier.
While it’s arguable as to how those Celtics compare with these Warriors, the fact remains that Bryant made sure his teammates would be ready when the two sides met again.
He has spoken about his motivation tactics on Pau Gasol following that ’08 loss and players such Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and Metta World Peace all played huge roles on that final championship run.
The likes of Jordan, Bryant and James are a special breed and very few can do what they do. No one wins a championship alone and Kobe believes that LeBron is someone who can elevate teammates even more which is what superstars have to do to be successful.
Now he’ll hope that James can do so for the franchise that Bryant led to the mountain top during his storied career.