LeBron James ‘absolutely’ looks to Kobe Bryant as guide for handling latter stages of career

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LeBron James turns 30 tomorrow, and the birthday will commemorate another stage in his career.

He has been a high school phenom, stud rookie, savvy veteran, NBA superstar, NBA champion and team leader. He has been loved and hated. He has played for the Cavaliers, Heat and Cavaliers again.

What’s next for LeBron? Perhaps Kobe Bryant can provide an example.

LeBron, in a Q&A with Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report:

B/R: Kobe Bryant (on Dec. 14) got celebrated for passing Michael Jordan in points. You’ve talked a little bit about your appreciation for what he’s done. As you watch him and the way he’s handling things six years down the line from where you are, does it make you think about how you might handle things? And also, you are more than 2,000 points ahead of where he was at age 30.

LJ: Absolutely. Absolutely. Come on, man. This is the longest shortest career of anything. I think about all the time, what’s next for me in the next couple of years, you know 35, and then if I make it to get where Kobe is, you know. How do I approach the game? And what is my mindset? And is my love for the game still there? I absolutely think about that stuff. I mean, how could you not? I mean, I’ve been in this league 12 years, and it’s not like I’m going up another 12 years. You know, my escalator is starting to tail. So I understand that.

The big question: Does LeBron look at Kobe as an example of what to do or what not to do?

Kobe takes a large salary, probably too large for the Lakers to contend around him as his production has slipped. He has alternated between remaining patient his younger teammates and criticizing them. He has stunting their growth by dominating the ball, though his incredible scoring at this age moved him past Michael Jordan in total points.

Kobe is playing out his career some kind of way, and the beauty of these final years are in the beholder. Time will tell if LeBron wants to – or even can – follow suit.

A lot of players have ideas about their final seasons, but few remain healthy enough to execute them. LeBron can plan as much as he wants, but it will take good fortune for any of those plans to become reality.