Report: LeBron has questioned if Lakers fans would ever fully embrace him

Mike Battaglino
4 Min Read
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The reaction to LeBron James’ latest historic milestone may have eased doubts the superstar has fostered about whether Los Angeles Lakers fans will ever fully embrace him.

“James, who has privately questioned whether Laker Nation would ever fully embrace him after seeing him battle their beloved Kobe Bryant for so long, acknowledged the way the fans and the franchise showed up for him,” wrote Bobby Marks and Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

On Saturday, James became the first NBA player to reach 40,000 career points. Now in his sixth season with the Lakers, the 39-year-old was grateful for the way the accomplishment was acknowledged by the faithful at Arena.

“Much respect and much loyalty to the Laker fan base for showing me that love,” James said. “Being the first player to do something, that’s pretty cool in this league.”

James continues to defy expectations for a player in his 21st NBA season. He is averaging 25.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game and has been able to play in 55 of 63 games so far this season after making that many appearances during the entire 2022-23 regular season.

It’s a long way away from his debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2003-04 campaign, when Bryant was playing his eighth season with the Lakers. The legend went on to play 20 NBA seasons himself, all with Los Angeles, and averaged 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game for his career.

He left the game following the 2015-16 season, which was coincidentally when James helped the Cleveland Cavaliers win their first and only NBA championship. With their overlapping careers taking part with each playing in a different conference, James and Bryant did not face each other on the court often and never met in an NBA playoff series.

The rivalry was more so off the court, with constant comparisons and debates over who was the better player. It continues to this day with arguments over where each ranks among the greatest players of all time. It’s worth noting that the two greats showed a great deal of love and respect for each other.

Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January 2020 at the age of 41, will always hold a special place in the hearts of Lakers fans and was acknowledged with a statue earlier this season. Discussions are ongoing as to whether James is deserving of such an honor.

He broke the NBA scoring record of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar while with the Lakers and was able to add this recent milestone to his accomplishments while wearing their jersey. If he can add another NBA championship with the Lakers to his legacy, that would go a long way toward cementing his status among the fans for good.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. He remembers the birth of "Showtime" and has always admired the star power the Lakers have brought to the game.