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On This Date in Sports January 27, 2008: Kobe vs. LeBron

In Collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

It is a battle of the NBA’s two leading scorers as Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers host LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The game is close throughout, as both stars are at the top of their game. The Cavaliers leave Los Angeles with a 98-95 win as LeBron scores a game-high 41 points, including a big shot over the head of Kobe, who finishes the game with 33 points.

In 2008, Kobe Bryant was at the height of his career. Winning the scoring title in 2006 and 2007, Bryant was enjoying his best season as the Lakers were enjoying a resurgence after three years of being a quick exit in the playoffs, Los Angeles was at the top of the West with a record of 27-14. While Kobe Bryant was on his way to winning the NBA’s MVP, he was losing his grip on the scoring title as LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers was coming into his own. After leading the Cavaliers to a surprise trip to the NBA Finals in 2007, LeBron had the Cavaliers in contention again at 23-19 as he led the league in scoring.

The two NBA stars were the main attraction on a Sunday afternoon game at Staples Center as the season was kicking into high gear. The game was everything an NBA fan could want as LeBron James showed why he was the NBA’s future, scoring 41 points as he battled Kobe Bryant and his Lakers. The Lakers star meanwhile had 33 points in a game that came down to the final seconds. With the ball, LeBron James hit a clutch jumper over Kobe with 20 seconds left to deliver Cleveland a 98-95 win. LeBron James ended the game with 41 points, nine rebounds, and four assists, while Kobe Bryant had 12 rebounds and six assists to go along with his 33 points.

Ten days after the game, the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol, who would give Kobe the help he needed to lift the Lakers back to the NBA’s elite. The Lakers would make the first of three straight trips to the NBA Finals in 2008, losing to the Boston Celtics in six games. The Lakers would go on to win the NBA Championship in 2009 and 2010. In 22 regular-season meetings, LeBron got the best of Kobe 16 times. Sadly, an NBA Finals showdown between Kobe and LeBron would never take place, as the Cavaliers stumbled in the postseason, leading LeBron to form a super team with the Miami Heat. By the time the Heat began to rise, the Lakers were fading. Still, either Kobe Bryant or LeBron James appeared in every NBA Finals from 2007-2018.

On this date that the sports world mourns the shocking loss of Kobe Bryant, it is best to remember the great showdowns and significant moments in his career, and this game on this date in 2008 was one of those games that showcased the NBA at its best.