Bryant's blurb says: "I'll do whatever it takes to win games. I don't leave anything in the chamber."
The chamber in a gun is the compartment that holds the bullet before it is fired.
"The Nike print ad featuring Kobe Bryant was intended to illustrate his all out play and commitment on the basketball court," Nike said in a statement. "It is a commonly used reference for shooting the basketball and no offense was intended."
NBA commissioner David Stern is sensitive to the issue of gun violence, and the NBA criticized the ad.
"We had no prior notice of this ad," spokesman Tim Frank said. "We think it is inappropriate."
Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton were suspended for the remainder of the season Wednesday by Stern for having guns in the Washington Wizards' locker room.
Bryant agreed with the league's stance on the advertisement.
"That ad was done months ago, prior to anything that came out," Bryant said after the Lakers beat the 76ers on Friday night. "Obviously, we're very sensitive toward that considering the current time and everything that happened since then. It's definitely inappropriate. I advised my business partners of that."
James defended Bryant, saying the words were taken out of context.
"That has nothing, zero, to do with guns," James said, raising his voice at reporters. "At all. At all. Zero. That's very simple. For somebody to even say that
- that's a basketball term. To try to highlight Kobe and say that he was referencing guns is totally ridiculous."
James said such slang is common among his peers.
"We say a lot of things as basketball players that make a reference to guns and violence, but it's really not guns and violence," he said.
Indiana Pacers coach Jim O'Brien used similar language after James' Cleveland Cavaliers beat his team 94-73 on Friday. The Pacers had lost to Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday by 22 points, and O'Brien was unhappy with his team's poor shooting.