Bill Russell might be a Boston Celtics legend, but even Los Angeles Lakers fans have to respect a widely renowned civil rights activist who was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Barack Obama, and also happened to win 11 championship rings during his playing career.
It turns out the respect from Russell is mutual, or it is for at least one member of the Lakers: Former All-Star Kobe Bryant.
Russell said in a video for the Player’s Tribune that Bryant is right up there among the best players he’s ever played against or seen because of how hard he worked to maximize his talent:
“When I think about Kobe Bryant, I think about a young guy that played up to his ability. You could maybe outplay him, but you could not outwork him. The great players, black or white — it doesn’t make any difference — they never take anything for granted.”
While for his part Bryant has said that the greatest of all time debate is a waste of air, Russell is simply the latest iconic NBA figure to praise Kobe as one of the best to ever play. And it is interesting how despite Bryant constantly being decried as overrated on social media that so many of his contemporaries say that he should at least be in the conversation about who the GOAT actually is, while so many of the NBA’s young stars cite him as their inspiration.
Ultimately though, wherever one ranks Bryant when it’s all said and done, it’s basically impossible to not agree with Russell on at least one point: Bryant at the very least worked as hard as any player ever, and the respect he’s earned from so much of his “competition” for the title of greatest ever — like Michael Jordan, and those that played with him — just proves that he is one of the best to ever do it.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.