Just last year, Kobe Bryant announced his retirement from the league which rattled his fans and peers. While many believed his NBA career was nearing its final run, the Black Mamba confirmed speculation in a lengthy note. With his tear-jerking appearance on the hardwood nearing, the reality of No. 24 no longer taking center court is starting to hit a few of his fellow players, namely LeBron James.
In an interview with ESPN, the Cleveland Cavaliers small forward said Bryant’s presence will still be felt even when he’s no longer facing off against the 5-time championship winner. “Anytime I even watch his games, even when I’m not playing him, it’s always like, very emotional just knowing it’s his last hurrah,” James said. “And he’s done so much, not only for the Lakers organization, but for me as a kid growing up watching Kobe and things of that nature and also competing against him.”
The Cavs will play against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday (Feb. 10) for the first time this 2015-16 season, a game that James said he’s looking forward to. “So it’s going to be really cool to see him on Wednesday for sure, and hopefully — I know our fans — they’re going to give him a great reception, well-deserved.”
While in reflection mode, James also revealed a moment he shared with Bryant as a high schooler. “I think I was playing in a tournament in Teaneck, New Jersey, and they were playing in the  All-Star game in Philly,” James recalls. “And I had an opportunity to go meet him, and he gave me a pair of his shoes, and I actually wore them in a game against Oak Hill, against Melo, actually. So, six degrees of separation right there.”
James and Bryant will face-off again in March after their East vs. West All-Star game in Toronto this weekend.