After playing alongside Derek Fisher for all five of his championship runs, Kobe Bryant will surely miss him this postseason.
Don't think for a second that his emotion will get in the way of competition, though.
After Fisher signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Bryant talked to ESPN's Dave McMenamin about his relationship with the point guard. The Lakers drafted Fisher in 1996, the same year they acquired Bryant.
Bryant said that he and Fisher have been in contact daily since the Lakers traded the point guard to the Houston Rockets just before last week's trade deadline; Houston then bought out his contract. Of Fisher's decision to sign with the Thunder, Bryant said he expected the move and that Fisher would provide stability and leadership to a youthful team looking to make its mark in the playoffs this season.
While Fisher is Bryant's closest confidant in the NBA, the ultra-competitive Bryant made it very clear that when the Thunder take on the Lakers next Thursday, they will be opponents first and friends second. Bryant told McMenamin:
Look, we don't get five championships by being sympathetic towards each other and kissing each other's [a--] during the game...I'm going to demolish him. He understands that. If he switches off on me in the post, there's going to be problems. I'm sure he'll put an elbow right in my back, and that's why we love each other.
So, who hopes that Fisher ends up trying to guard Bryant in the post next week?
Seriously, though, this is the perfect quote from Bryant. It shows his personality—the maniacal competitor—while also showing just how much he cares about Fisher and the friendship they've cultivated over the past 16 years.
Two hard-nosed players, with very different skill levels and ceilings for personal success, Fisher and Bryant found common ground in their professionalism, and a mutual respect was born from their work ethic.
That respect for one another—and their friendship—will remain long after each has played in his last game, regardless of the uniform worn or who ends up winning the final tally of championship rings.