Thomas Bryant recalls being awestruck in ‘surreal’ first meeting with LeBron James during Lakers-Wizards game

Brad Sullivan
4 Min Read

Center Thomas Bryant signed with the Los Angeles Lakers during the offseason and recently recounted his awestruck reaction the first time he played against new teammate LeBron James.

Bryant offered responses to a variety of different topics and described (at the 1:58 mark) his first meeting with James, which came when he was a member of the Washington Wizards.

“The first time I met LeBron was actually when I was with the Wizards, and we played against them,” Bryant said. “That was a super surreal moment, and I was like, ‘Oh wow, I saw this guy on T.V., and now I’m playing against him.’ Meeting him, that kind of guy, on that type of stature, it was like another surreal moment of this like, ‘Wow, I’m sharing the court with this guy.'”

The date of Bryant’s first contest against James wasn’t noted, but appears to have taken place on Dec. 16, 2018. Besides the thrill of interacting with James in that clash, Bryant no doubt has more positive memories from the game since the Wizards won 128-110.

In that game, Bryant had eight points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. James had a below average outing by scoring only 13 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out three assists.

Bryant was originally selected by the Utah Jazz during the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft and dealt to the Lakers that same night.

In his first season in the NBA, Bryant saw minimal action in 15 games and was later released. Within days, he was picked up by the Wizards, and he spent the past four seasons with the organization.

Over the course of Bryant’s four seasons with the Wizards, a major injury in January 2021 helped send him to the sidelines for an extended period.

During his first three seasons with the Wizards, he averaged 11.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. However, he went down with that injury after starting 10 games at the beginning of the 2020-21 campaign.

Last season, Bryant played in only 27 games for the Wizards and averaged just 16.3 minutes of action in those contests.

James is set to begin his 20th season in the NBA and has heard other players offer similar stories of playing against someone that they had watched on television for years. The adulation is obviously flattering for the future Hall of Famer, though it’s clear that he’s focused on the present, not the past.

That’s because the Lakers are looking to have a deep playoff run during the season ahead. If James and Anthony Davis are able to stay healthy throughout the year, that could happen.

Bryant might possibly end up aiding the Lakers’ cause should that occur, and that would certainly get the attention of James.

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Brad is a freelance writer for, who can clearly recall watching Lakers games in 1972 as they captured the first of their 11 Los Angeles-based titles. The franchise's evolution into a beloved and iconic franchise among its fan base since that memorable year allows for a wider perspective to be a part of his writing about the team's current fortunes.