Gregg Popovich on Kobe Bryant: "1 of the Greatest Players of All-Time"

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2017

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) hugs San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich before an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Darren Abate/Associated Press

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich consistently ran up against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers as the two teams combined to make 11 of the 12 NBA Finals from 1999 through 2010, but he had nothing but praise for the future Hall of Famer Monday. 

"Kobe is one of those guys that every coach in the world says, 'That would have been great to have an opportunity to coach that guy,'" he said, per Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times. "That's the best thing I can say about him. It says everything."

Popovich's comments come before the Lakers are set to retire Bryant's Nos. 8 and 24 jerseys during halftime of their Monday game against the Golden State Warriors.

Popovich continued, comparing Bryant to some of the best players in NBA history while also pointing to what made him so unique as a competitor:

"One of the greatest players of all time. It's not just his talent or his physical skills. He mind was on a par with Michael and Larry and Magic, guys like that. They thought the game, they knew what was going on.

"And then on top of that, he had a really phenomenal competitiveness. So it's not just the talent. It's the mind and the grit, the guts, the who he is and the way he wanted to compete night after night, which is what made him Kobe Bryant."

It is hard to argue with Popovich's assessment of Bryant as one of the best players in the history of the league.

The career-long Laker was a five-time NBA champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, the 2007-08 league MVP, 15-time member of the All-NBA team, 18-time All-Star and two-time scoring champion.

He is third on the league's all-time scoring list with 33,643 points and poured in 81 points in a 2006 matchup with the Toronto Raptors and 60 points in the final game of his career in 2016 against the Utah Jazz.

That Popovich was so complimentary of Bryant on Monday comes as no surprise given the past admiration he expressed when the former Laker was still playing.

Nick Moyle of the San Antonio Express-News noted the Spurs coach appeared in the tribute video to Bryant for the final game of his NBA career and previously said of the 2016 retirement, "It will be a great personality gone. He's an iconic figure and when those kind of guys stop playing, the league misses them, you miss them."

Popovich, the NBA and its fans may miss Bryant as a player, but they will have the opportunity to reminisce about his most memorable moments Monday as he sees not one but two jerseys raised into the rafters of the Staples Center.