Kobe Bryant may be a shell of his former self on the basketball court at this point, but he can still recognize greatness when he sees it. In two games against Bryant's Lakers this season, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has averaged 29.5 points, 10 assists, and 5 rebounds on 47.7% shooting. Lillard has also knocked down 38.1% of his three-pointers and 90% of his free throws.
Kobe has noticed Lillard tearing his team apart, and was asked about the play of the Weber State product. "He's one of the best players in the league," Bryant told reporters, "He's a fantastic player."
Bryant has been more open in his praise and respect for the rest of the league during what will likely be his final season, from taking time after the Lakers' loss to the New York Knicks to give advice to rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis, or calling his former teammate Luke Walton "the next Phil [Jackson]." Bryant has also talked up his young teammates, from calling D'Angelo Russell "a ridiculous playmaker" to saying Julius Randle is "as strong as a bull."
Bryant would never admit to softening with age, but he certainly seems more willing to recognize and compliment others.
Quote transcribed via Time Warner Cable Sportsnet