Kobe Bryant will retire this season upon the conclusion of his 20th NBA campaign, and he's made his fair share of rivals throughout his time in the league. Arguably most memorable of Bryant's Lakers' foes were the Sacramento Kings of the early 2000's that the Lakers had numerous hard fought battles with, culminating in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, in which the two-time defending champion Lakers knocking off the Kings in a game seven that went to overtime.
Chris Webber was the leader of those Kings teams, and while he acknowledges that he was likely denied a championship because of the existence of those Lakers teams starring Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, it has not kept him from appreciating Kobe's legendary career.
Webber was one of several of Bryant's contemporaries to speak with Sam Amick of USA Todayabout Bryant before he heads to his final All-Star game in Toronto, and the former Kings forward said he was most impressed by Kobe's zeal for competition:
"I saw the competitiveness. I saw him get better every year. I saw him work on things differently every year. So to me, I just think it's a great moment to celebrate the legacy of a player that gave his all on the court. ...It was an honor to battle against him. One of the best ever. One of the greatest competitors ever."
Many have spent the year praising Bryant's singular talent and how it impacted the league during his 20 seasons, but his competitiveness was part of what allowed him to work as hard as he did for as long as he did, and get the most out of his natural gifts. It's just strange for any Lakers fan growing up during those Lakers-Kings hear Webber is willing to acknowledge and praise Bryant for it.
Amick also spoke to Reggie Miller and Shaquille O'Neal about Bryant's legacy, and his whole report is worth a read.
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