Kobe Bryant will play in his final game in Chicago's United Center on Sunday night, but it surely won't be the last time he is compared to the greatest player to ever suit up for the Bulls, Michael Jordan. The comparisons between the two's playing style have been evident for Bryant's entire career, and during his pregame media availability Kobe confirmed Jordan's influence on him.
"No words can really do it justice," Bryant said of the impact Jordan had on him, as captured by Mike Trudell of Lakers.com. "I studied Michael exclusively. He was extremely open to (mentoring me)." From Kobe's impeccable footwork to his trademark fadeaways, there is more than a little of MJ in his game. But according to Bryant, this technical precision was not the only common trait he shared with Jordan. Kobe also told reporters that he would put both Jordan's competitiveness and his own on a level above other players in the NBA's history:
Kobe on MJ: "Our competitiveness are second to none."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) February 21, 2016
There have been few, if any players, quite as maniacally competitive as Jordan and Bryant were in their primes, so it's hard to argue with Kobe on that point. He believes that same quality would have allowed him to play for the Bulls in Jordan's shadow had his 2007 trade demand been met, something that sounds like it was closer than most have thought:
Kobe wanted trade to Bulls in '07, but playing in MJ's shadow wouldn't bug him: "Do I seem like the type to cower to something like that?"— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) February 21, 2016
Kobe on 2004 free agency and 2007 trade demand: "My wife and I were planning travel arrangements for Chicago. Looking at schools and homes."— Sean Highkin (@highkin) February 21, 2016
Things obviously turned out very different, with Bryant staying in Los Angeles and winning two more rings with Pau Gasol, whom he says he tried to convince to stay in free agency two years ago:
Kobe on Pau: "I tried everything under the sun to convince him to stay" in 2014 summer— Sean Highkin (@highkin) February 21, 2016
Kobe says he understands why Pau left â says Pau felt disrespected by constant trade trade talk, etc. "He's a very prideful guy."— Sean Highkin (@highkin) February 21, 2016
Kobe and the very prideful Pau will share a basketball court for the final time tonight, and this video of some of the two's best moments via YouTube user MambaDontFear will leave all Lakers fans suitably nostalgic about it:
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