LeBron James
(Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

About That Dunk...

LeBron details the dunk that was identical to Kobe's 2001 version.
by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

When LeBron James came barreling down the court in transition in L.A.’s Thursday evening game against Houston, leapt into the air and threw down a vicious reverse windmill with two hands, we noticed how ridiculous it was even for him.

Left there, it would have gone into the archives as yet another LeBron moment to join hundreds of others in his career, with a particularly iconic photo of the 17-year-veteran gliding through the air as lasting evidence.

But later that night, Lakers video producer Josh Williams was looking at comments on a Reddit thread of the dunk, when someone mentioned the dunk was “like the one Kobe did.” Hmmmmm. Josh dug further, and figured out that Kobe’s version happened against Sacramento in 2001. OK.

Next, he started combing through the play-by-play data from the two Lakers-Kings games at Staples Center that season. Once he found it, he went through the NBA’s media archive, and pulled as many angles of Kobe’s dunk as possible.

Sure enough, it was basically identical to LeBron’s dunk. Same side of the floor. Same way the play developed off a turnover.

I’m sure you’ve seen the compilation Josh put together by now:

When the media talked to LeBron after the game against Houston, nobody had made the connection to Kobe’s dunk, and therefore, nobody asked LeBron if this was something he’d remembered and was doing as a tribute. Or … did it just happen organically, somehow, even while LeBron, his teammates and the world continued to both grieve and celebrate Kobe’s recent passing?

Meanwhile, there was no practice on Friday or shootaround on Saturday prior to that evening’s game in Golden State, so our first chance to talk to LeBron about the dunk came postgame after L.A. beat the Warriors.

“I don’t know … I didn’t really predetermine that either until I jumped,” said James when ESPN’s Dave McMenamin asked if he realized what he was doing at the time. “I just jumped and kinda figured it out. It’s crazy how it’s the same exact dunk on the same exact hoop that Kobe did they say, what, 19 years ago or something like that. That was nuts.”

So … wait … when was the last time LeBron saw that Kobe dunk? He hadn’t caught it on a highlight reel that week?

“The last time I seen that dunk from him? I don’t know,” LeBron offered. “I’ve seen him do it before, but that particular one where it was identical, I haven’t seen that one.”

In other words, the dunk was not pre-planned. It just happened. The first time LeBron realized it was when he saw the video compilation that Williams put together for the Lakers’ social media channels.

“Our great social media team put that together, and I was like, that’s really, really good,” said LeBron when I asked when he became aware that the dunk was identical to Kobe’s. “And then I was watching social media today and my son did the same thing in his warm up. He didn’t do it in the game, but he kinda did the same dunk in his warmup. Kobe is in all of us right now … it’s crazy.

“For that to now be a part of my history, that correlation between me and Kobe and that play, I think it’s pretty awesome, and I’m glad I did it in a Laker uniform on that side of the floor.”

I pointed out to LeBron that the only real difference in the dunks is that he’s a 35-year-old in his 17th season, and that Kobe was 22 at the time.

LeBron just smiled and nodded his head, joking that yup, he still has some lift in his legs!

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