With Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant set to hang up his sneakers at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, one of the most legendary figures in Lakers and NBA history expressed great admiration for the Black Mamba on Thursday night.
According to ESPN.com's Baxter Holmes, Basketball Hall of Famer and current Golden State Warriors executive Jerry West showered Bryant with compliments, as the Lakers were in town to take on the Dubs: "He was a showman, but he also was a winner. And he has [left] a legacy throughout the world. Millions of people love this guy, and millions of people will miss what he was able to accomplish in his career."
West was the Lakers general manager when they acquired Kobe from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Vlade Divac in 1996.
While West admitted that handling Bryant was a chore at times, he made it abundantly clear that he considers Kobe to be one of the best players to ever step onto the floor:
I've always had a fondness for him as a player. Sometimes he would disappoint me with some of the things he would say, in particular with regards to players who would not play as hard as him. Number one, they couldn't play as hard as him, but number two, they didn't have the skill to play as hard as him.
But I think on the balance, this has been a remarkable player, a player for the decades, simply one of the greatest players that ever played the game. And I'm talking about a handful of guys that ever played the game.
That is high praise coming from anyone, but especially West, considering he was a 14-time All-Star as a player.
In addition to the fact that Bryant is a 17-time All-Star, five-time NBA champion and former MVP, West remains impressed with the fact he managed to play his entire career with one team, which is something West also accomplished:
I think in the NBA he will be one of those players that will be perceived as one of the 10 top players of all time, probably higher, because I don't want to demean anyone that's played this game at eye level. I don't.
But for a franchise to have someone that long, for 20 years, it's pretty amazing. He's left a lot of big footprints there. I don't see anyone there now that's going to be able to step into those footprints. I'm hopeful they will find one one day.
After watching West's video tribute prior to the Lakers' 116-98 loss to the Warriors on Thursday, Bryant became visibly emotional.
According to Holmes, West's words meant a lot to Bryant due to the faith West showed in him when he was a young player.
That was a tough one for me to get through. That got me a little bit.
That's what started it all. He's the man that believed in me from the beginning. The conversation that I had with him sitting in the Forum locker room and just being in awe of sitting in Magic [Johnson]'s locker and sitting next to Jerry West talking about basketball. That's before anybody knew anything. That was special.
Kobe is now 37 and rapidly approaching the end of his career, but he created enough memories during his 20-year career to last fans a lifetime.
The majority of basketball observers consider Bryant to be one of the all-time greats, but hearing it from someone the caliber of West solidifies it and puts Kobe's place in history in perspective.
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