LeBron James Says He's Got 'Better Shoe' Than Kobe Bryant
Nike announced this week that three NBA stars will be wearing special shoes on Christmas Day. The cheapest of the three is Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant's Zoom KD III, which has a suggested retail price of $88 primarily because Durant doesn't want a super expensive shoe.
The others that also will hit the stores Sunday are James' LeBron 8 V/2, which has a suggested price of $160, and Bryant's Zoom Kobe VI, which retails for $130. So the natural question is: Why in the heck does the Miami star's shoe sell for $30 more?
"Yeah, it's a better shoe,'' James said Friday after a practice at UCLA on the eve of Miami's Christmas Day battle with Bryant's Lakers at the Staples Center. "But we're all one Nike family.''
So why is it a better shoe?
"Because it is,'' James said of his shoe, which is red with green laces while Bryant's is green with red laces. "Because it's LeBron's shoe. It's got my name on it. I take pride in my shoes every year and I've always taken pride in having the best shoe. So they're going to cost a little more if you decide to wear them.''
As to what Bryant thinks of this shoe battle, it's unclear. He declined to talk to the media Friday for the third straight time after his ejection late in last Tuesday's 98-79 home loss to Milwaukee. The guard didn't talk after that game nor after a Thursday practice, which followed the Lakers being off Wednesday.
James said his shoe (right) costs $30 more than Bryant's (left) "Because it's LeBron's shoe."
Footwear aside, as far as there being a rivalry between James and Bryant, the Heat forward doesn't see it. This despite the two having combined to win the last three Most Valuable Player awards, Bryant getting the trophy in 2007-08 and James the past two years with Cleveland.
"No, I don't think so,'' James said of a rivalry existing with Bryant. "I think rivalries are created in the Finals, in the playoffs. We have never went against each other in that case.''
No, they haven't. Bryant has been in seven Finals, winning five. The only one James made it to, his Cavaliers fell in 2007 to San Antonio.
Now, James will be facing Bryant for the first time in a uniform other than Cleveland's. Of course, he has a much better supporting cast, namely fellow Heat stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Wade sat out Thursday at Phoenix due to a sore left knee. But he went through practice Friday and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is hopeful he'll play.
"My plan is to play,'' Wade said. "I just want to continue to get better and continue to do my treatment therapy, but my plan is to play.''
Bryant will be matched against Wade. Still, plenty of fans will be more curious to see how Bryant fares as opposed to James.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson believes there's a rivalry between Bryant and James. He went so far as to say Bryant was trying to upstage James when Bryant announced he would become a free agent in the summer of 2004 on the day James was taken No. 1 by the Cavaliers in the 2003 draft.
"He took the headlines away from LeBron in a way,'' Jackson said. "So, obviously, I think he had him in his sights right off the bat. ... They managed to be teammates (for the 2008 Olympic team). They congratulated each other. (But) there's a deep competitive fervor going on between them, and that's natural. And that's just the way it's going to be.''
James, though, shrugged when asked if he believed Bryant was trying to take any headlines away from him 7 ½ years ago.
"I don't know,'' James said. "I have no idea.''
As for Jackson's take on James announcing his decision to leave Cleveland on the ESPN show "The Decision,'' Jackson said he didn't watch. But Jackson agreed with some of the criticism that has surfaced about James joining Wade and Bosh in the manner it happened.
"My thoughts after that is what Michael Jordan and some of the other guys would say, that they would never have done something like that,'' Jackson said. "They would have anticipated their team would have built up a talent so they could battle for the championship. So I think that's what kind of everybody expected is not too many players would have gone to the Finals like Cleveland did (in 2007 and) would lose a player in this manner. They'd want to redeem that opportunity or whatever. But that's his choice, and we'll all live with it.''
Trying to stop James on Saturday primarily will be the task of Lakers small forward Ron Artest. He's already got his strategy in order, and it seems like an odd one. But it is Artest we're talking about.
"I like to get him mad,'' Artest said. "He plays better when he's upset.''
Then why would Artest want to get James upset?
"It's best to get people's A game,'' Artest said. "That why I talk a lot of trash in the media. I just be myself. I think I was talking trash to (Vince Carter) one time. He got pretty upset and he played pretty well. It's good for the fans to see people's A game.''
Artest was invited then to say something that would make James upset. He said he'll let things "happen naturally'' and will "think of something'' Saturday.
"I think I just play better when I'm having fun,'' James said of Artest's claim he plays better when angry. "There's nothing (Artest) can say to me that can get me angry. If he was in the stands at Cleveland (when James made his return Dec. 2 to a hostile crowd), he could have made me angry.''
Artest, though, figures to make somebody very happy Saturday, when his championship ring from last season gets a new owner. He's raffling off the ring for charity, and says about $600,000 has been raised so far.
James, as has been well documented, doesn't have a ring. If he ever wins one, James was asked if he would raffle it off in a similar manner.
"Me, personally, I wouldn't,'' James said. "I'm not knocking what he did. I think he auctioned it off for a good cause. So any time you're thinking about someone in need, I have no problem with it. I don't think I would do it personally, but I don't think it was a bad thing to do either.''
For now, it's Bryant's Lakers who have hogged all the championship rings the past two seasons. But James still thinks his shoe is better than Bryant's.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson