LeBron James and Kobe Bryant speak during a Olympic Games news conference… (Diego Azubel / EPA )
LONDON -- Things have changed for Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
All it took was an NBA championship by the Miami Heat.
"We have more in common now," Bryant said Friday. "We talk about more things now."
It's not that Bryant hated James or anything like that, but the five-time ring-earner sometimes dismisses opponents who don't have one of their own.
Case in point: Last February, Bryant shrugged off young Oklahoma City stars Kevin Durant and James Harden after they engaged him in trash-talking late in a regular-season game.
"Maybe one day they'll be able to sit at my lunch table," Bryant said at the time. "Right now we're at two different lunch tables, man. The conversation's pretty brief."
If media interest is the indicator, Bryant and James are easily the top two stars on the U.S. team, which begins Olympic play Sunday against France.
Reporters surrounded them at a Friday afternoon news conference, packing in seven and eight deep in a dense semi-circle.
"This is more physical than our games," Bryant quipped at one point as media members pushed and shoved one another. "I’ve seen at least two flagrant fouls."
Bryant, who turns 34 next month, seems to be enjoying his role as an elder statesman.
"They call me the O.G. That’s what I am around here," he said.
The original gangster?
"One hundred percent," Bryant said. "That’s what they call me."
Bryant, in his second Olympics, is content to sit back and let younger players do most of the work.
Bryant was fifth on the team in scoring after five exhibition games, averaging 8.2 points. James (18.6 points) and Durant (17.6) led the team in scoring coming into the Olympics.
"I’m kind of like the relief pitcher. I don’t really have to do too much," Bryant said. "I have to defend the best player on the other team, which is fun. I get hit with a lot of screens but it’s fun to still chase him and take on that challenge."
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