Article on KB24, aka the “Kingmaker.”
Slate: The NBA and its marketers, dedicated to maximum hype always, have been rooting (via the medium of puppetry) for a collision of superduperstars in this year’s NBA Finals. The trailer for an ESPN special about Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, “Dream Season: 23 & 24,” prematurely posited that the Cleveland Cavalier gives Kobe a long-awaited, worthy rival to test himself against, like Magic Johnson against Larry Bird, each man’s brilliance counterbalanced by the other’s.
But Magic and Bird were true contemporaries: They battled for the college championship, then entered the NBA together as rookies. Kobe was a three-time NBA champ when LeBron was still in high school. And now, at age 30, Bryant is starting to fade from his physical peak, while the 24-year-old James is still on his way up. Their relationship is more like the one between Bird and the aging Julius Erving—though the two did star in a one-on-one video game, their on-court rivalry was punctuated by a frustrated Dr. J grabbing his young tormentor by the throat.
More importantly, the Waiting for LeBron premise shortchanges the rivalry that has truly defined an era in the NBA: Kobe Bryant against the Guy Beating Kobe Bryant.