LeBron James said he wanted to give Kobe Bryant a reason to attend another game after the Los Angeles Lakers great watched the win over the Atlanta Hawks.
Bryant sat court-side as his former team the Lakers beat the Hawks 122-101 at Staples Center, where James shared an embrace with the five-time NBA champion.
James, who posted 33 points and 12 rebounds on Sunday, acknowledged Bryant in the opening quarter as the past met the present before nailing a three-pointer in Los Angeles.
“He is one of the greatest players to have played this game,” James told reporters post-game. “I’m just trying put on a show for him.
“I know he came to a game last year and just having him in the building, just knowing what he meant to this franchise, to L.A., and for me and my team-mates, what it means to be a part of Laker Nation and Laker family, is a beautiful thing.
“I grew up watching him, admiring him. I was one of the kids obviously who had the chance to come straight outta high school. He did it.
“It’s just so surreal for me. Just for a kid from Akron to have a guy like Kobe, just take time out of his day, even at this point of my career, it’s still special.”
James – a three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP – also used Instagram to hail Kobe, who is not known for attending many Lakers games in LA.
“I’m just trying to continue the legacy you left behind in the purple and gold,” James wrote. “At the same time make you proud!! #TheBlackMamba #LakeShow.”
James continued his stunning start to the season against the Hawks, with the 34-year-old averaging 25.0 points, 11.2 assists and 7.6 rebounds per game this season.
His performance helped the Lakers – who have missed the playoffs for the past six consecutive seasons – improve to 11-2.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said: “He’s playing at an extraordinarily high level and dominating. His effort on the defensive end has really spread throughout the group, and the group has bought into being dominant on the defensive end of the floor.
“We saw that in the first quarter, with how we just controlled the game from the start. Offensively, his shot-making, his decision-making, zero turnovers, 12 assists… Are you kidding me?”