Kobe Bryant Says Michael Jordan Was Best Competitor He's Ever Played Against

Mike NorrisFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2016

Mar 22, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) reacts during an NBA game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center. The Lakers defeated the Grizzlies 107-100.  Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With his career winding down, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant has let his guard down a bit and given media and fans a glimpse into his basketball thoughts.

His latest revelation—that Hall of Famer Michael Jordan is the best competitor he's ever faced—is an obvious one, per Serena Winters of Lakers Nation:

Considering Jordan is widely thought of as the best basketball player ever, it's not a shocking answer. However, MJ was the player many thought Kobe could be when he burst onto the scene in the mid-'90s, which makes his answer an interesting one.   

With Jordan retiring for three years in the late '90s, the duo only faced off against each other for four years, two of which Jordan played for the Washington Wizards after a storied career with the Chicago Bulls.

Here is a look at how the two fared against each other on the same court:

Kobe vs. MJ
Source: ESPN.com

Those are pretty even numbers for two shooting guards who had similar playing styles. They also combined for 11 NBA championships, eight NBA Finals MVPs, six regular-season MVPs and 32 All-Star Game appearances.

As Bryant prepares to retire after 20 seasons in the NBA, it's hard to believe he was ever in awe of another player. But as the Los Angeles Daily News reported (h/t Marcel Mutoni of SlamOnline), he was when the two faced off for the first time:

On Dec. 17, 1996, Bryant squared off against Michael Jordan for the first time in his life. But despite spending a childhood studying Jordan “exclusively”, Bryant could not prepare for the first in-person interaction. Then, Jordan drove past Bryant baseline for a dunk. […] “That was the coolest thing. I have seen that spin move so many times,” Bryant said before the Lakers played the Bulls on Sunday in what marked his final game at United Center. “I knew he was going to do it. But the timing on TV and in person are two completely different things. He spun right before I thought he was going to spin. I thought that was pretty cool.”

Bryant recovered rather nicely. He is third on the NBA's career scoring leaderboard (one spot ahead of Jordan) and will go down as one of the best players of the last generation.

It's too bad NBA fans weren't able to see the two on the court against each other while both were in their primes. If so, there's no doubt they would have had some epic Finals matchups.