LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers continue to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant . — This time, it was “not predetermined,” LeBron said after he put down a near-identical slam dunk to one of Kobe’s signature dunks from 2001. LeBron’s unintended tribute to Kobe was a stellar breakaway dunk in Thursday’s game at home against the Houston Rockets. Just like Shaq‘s 2001 outlet pass to Kobe on November 18, 2001, against the Sacramento Kings, Anthony Davis caught LBJ on an eerily similar outlet pass, which led to the epic finish — a double-clutch reverse in mid-air.
An incredible photo of LeBron in the air, which is arguably his most iconic photo to date, quickly made its way around the internet. After the viral dunk, fans pointed out that his dunk was a nod to his longtime friend. However, in a post-game interview, LBJ said “it was crazy,” because the dunk just happened.
“I don’t know I didn’t really predetermine that until I jumped, I just kind of jumped and then figure it out,” LeBron said when asked about the dunk after the Lakers loss to the Rockets. “It’s crazy how it’s the same exact dunk on the same exact hoop that Kobe did like what, they said 19 years ago, or something like that — that was nuts.”
(Video credit: LeBron James/Lakers/Instagram)
LeBron went on to mention that he’d never seen the specific dunk of Kobe’s that fans compared his too. “Our great [Lakers] social media team put that together and I was like that’s really really good,” he said of the back-to-back videos comparing the dunks. “Then I was watching social media the other day and my son did the same [dunk] in his warmups. Kobe, he’s in all of us right now.”
He continued, “It’s crazy, it’s crazy. I was what, a high school junior 19 years ago, so I was probably watching [Kobe’s] game or working on my game, so for that to now be a part of my history, the correlation between me and Kobe, that play, I think it’s pretty pretty awesome,” he said, noting the similarities between the separate dunks. “And, I’m glad I did it in a Laker uniform on that side of the floor. Even the outlet pass — Shaq threw the outlet pass [to Kobe] and AD gave me the outlet pass, it was almost like that was identical [too].”
"Same exact dunk on the same exact hoop, that was nuts… that photo will be hung up in my house somewhere." @KingJames reflects on his eerily identical dunk to Kobe's 19 years ago and the epic photo that followed. pic.twitter.com/mpZsyvHtd9
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) February 9, 2020
LeBron later posted the video made by the Lakers with the caption, “Salute my brother!! 🙏🏾❤️. 👑x🐍. #Mamba4Life #LegendsNeverDie.” The post, which has since garnered over 12 million views, caught the attention of many celebrities, including Justin Timberlake, who commented, “WOW, bro.”
Migos rapper Offset wrote, “Hardest sh-t I ever seen 🔥🔥🔥.” Victor Cruz added, “Mamba Forever 🙏🏾,” with Jamie Foxx leaving three prayer hand emojis. Ellen Pompeo, who witnessed LeBron’s dunk in person wrote that she “was lucky enough to be sitting right under the basket last night mamba kicks too I saw 💯💯💯.”
Kobe was killed on January 26 alongside eight other people, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. LeBron, who played with Kobe on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, believes his friend was there in spirit for his slam dunk on February 6.
“Ever see the movie ‘The 6th Man’?” LeBron said, referencing the 1997 Marlon Wayans movie. “Kobe came down, put himself in my body and gave me that dunk on that break.”