Kobe Bryant has one more NBA game left for his career. It will be a sad day for many NBA fans who have watched the long time Laker ball in Los Angeles.
It won’t only be a sad day for fans, but for the players and coaches who have been around him for over a decade. Kobe Bryant has had a lasting impact on every player who has been around him. Well, with the season winding down, players were asked what it meant to be or play along side such a player that is Kobe Bryant.
Their responses were amazing.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE GOING AGAINST KOBE?
“No matter what you did defensively, he still could rise up over you and get off a relatively uncontested shot with balance. That would scare you because there’s really no defense for it. It was like you couldn’t let him get the ball, so you had to pick your spots when you wanted to get him away from the ball or, if he did have the ball, who you were going to send to him, who you were going to allow to shoot the ball, what you were going to give up if you went after him and took it out of his hands. It was that sort of thing. But the final fear would always be — even if we did that — he still would rise up, and he’s going to get that shot off. And he did that against a lot of people, including us, many times.”
—Gregg Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs
“That’s a moment that I remember in (Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, a 39-point Boston blowout win). The funniest moment, Kobe knows this, but we were up 1,000 (points) in Game 6 and the guy who you would least expect walks over to me during the game — (then-Celtics assistant coach) Tom Thibodeau — and he asks me, ‘Are you going to sub out? There’s six minutes and we’re up 42 points.’ Of all the guys to say that, it’s Tom Thibodeau. And I looked over there at the Lakers and Kobe was still on the floor, and I actually said, ‘When Phil takes that guy out, I take my guys out.’ And Thibs said, ‘You’re safe.’ And I said, ‘Not with that guy on the floor.’
“I was dead serious. I had obviously lost my mind because it was a 42-point lead. But he put that fear in you, man.”
—Doc Rivers, current Los Angeles Clippers coach, former Boston Celtics coach
“He was just fearless. He’s a champion. To get to where you want to get to, you have to put the work in. His work ethic is one thing that he has. That’s the reason why he’s so great.”
—Paul George, Indiana Pacers
“I think probably one of the moments that would stick out to me, we’re playing in L.A…. and we were just trapping him and he was taking shots over two or three guys and knocking them down. I think that’s when I got to see firsthand how good he was.”
—LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
“Two things crossed our staff’s minds. Number one is, as much as we enjoy watching him on TV, I’m glad that we never will (see him in person) again. Number two is, I can’t imagine what he was like 10 years ago because he looked like he was 29 out there.”
—Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics coach, speaking after Kobe scored 34 on the Celtics this season
“I told him, ‘Are you sure you’re going to retire this year?’”
—Jae Crowder, Boston Celtics, after Kobe’s 34-point game against Boston
“He’s the most competitive player we’ve played against, and the thing he’s done throughout his career and the things he’s done to change the game, to motivate the players is unbelievable.”
—Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
“You remember all the struggles against him and all the competitiveness and you respect him so much for bringing it night after night after night. You know, a lot of players don’t understand that responsibility to be able to do that at that level, and he does it fiercely for all these years.”
—Gregg Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs
Players were asked what it was like to be a teammate of Bryant. We have heard some good and bad things in the past, but that’s just Kobe. It’s all love.
“When I first got there he was still young. He was Kobe, but he hadn’t been a starter yet. And that third year of his career, that was my first year, Rick Fox went down and he stepped in and took a starting role. But just seeing the film he watched all the time, the players he was talking about, the Oscar Robertsons, Michael Jordans, the Magics, he knew from day one who he wanted to be like. He knew that to be the best, you had to work hard. That’s what he did every single day. Not one day did I see him take off.”
—Tyronn Lue, former Lakers teammate of Kobe, current Cleveland Cavaliers coach
“Honestly, it’s hard. It’s not easy. He’s a guy that’s earned every shot he’s taken, earned every minute he’s given, so you feel like being a rookie, but you feel like you’ve worked to be in his position so early but you’ve just got to be patient.”
—D’Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers
His influence on younger players is remarkable:
“Me growing up in Los Angeles and being able to see Kobe, obviously he’s one of the greatest players to play the game. It was a true honor to be able to learn from him. It’s a great experience to be able to learn different things from him, not just on the floor but off the floor as well and very different experiences.”
—Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
“He’s been my idol growing up, my basketball idol.”
—James Harden, Houston Rockets
“I grew up watching the Lakers. I grew up watching him his whole career and getting a chance to have a relationship with him and kind of, you know, patterned my game after him so to speak, so definitely speaks volumes.”
—DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
“Kevin Eastman used to run a camp — a Nike skills camp — the first year they did the skills academy and I remember him telling stories about Kobe, just about his work ethic and things like that. And then over the years, you hear more stories. Being so close, you hear all kinds of stories and, like I said, the way he goes about his game, I respect that more than anything about him. Just the fact that he puts in so much work and cares about his craft so much.”
—Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
It’s amazing to see what people around him have to say. It goes to show that Bryant had an impact beyond basketball. He wanted others around him to grow just as much as he did. He knew that success was not easy for him to achieve, but it is something that is capable of being obtained by everyone. Kobe has had a lasting legacy that we all want to leave on others. We all hope that Kobe can stay around the game of basketball and keep impacting others for many years to come.