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Kobe Bryant didn't believe Larry Bird was tough to defend: "He looks slow as sh*t to me"

Before he dissected his game, Kobe Bryant didn't perceive Larry Bird as a matchup nightmare
Kobe Bryant didn't think Larry Bird would be hard to defend

Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird

All-time greatness is conditioned by athleticism. And it's always been that way.

But in the league dominated by the Wilt Chamberlains, Michael Jordans, Shaquille O'Neals, and LeBron Jameses of the world, there are outliers -- guys who, despite having average physical gifts, reached the aforementioned threshold.

Larry Bird is one of those guys; "a slow white boy who can't jump." And yet, the Celtics legend is described by many as one of the toughest players to guard in NBA history.

But his lack of athleticism had many fooled. Kobe Bryant is one of them.

"Slow as sh*t"

Kobe walked like Mike, talked like Mike, and played like Mike. But his all-time great NBA run wasn't just influenced by No.23.

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Being the ultimate student of the game, Bryant dissected every all-time great that preceded Jordan, trying to steal something from their basketball repertoires. Bird was one of those guys whose game Kobe studied. He was also the biggest enigma for the Lakers legend.

"All the Lakers greats; I would always sit down and ask them questions about certain games that I studied growing up," Kobe said. "‘What actually happened there? What did you feel there? Why? Bird tough to defend? Why? Because he looks slow as sh*t to me. I’m missing something so tell me what I’m missing.'”

Paving the way for the unathletic ones

"I wasn’t really quick, and I wasn’t really strong. Some guys will just take off, and it’s like, whoa. So I beat them with my mind and my fundamentals," Bird himself once said.

The epitome of the "don't judge a book by its covers" phrase made up for the lack of athleticism with one of the greatest basketball minds, as well as mouths, the NBA has ever seen. He also paved the way for everyone else who doesn't fit the general recipe for basketball immortality.

There are ways to overshadow the lack of speed, strength, and leaping ability. One can even argue that the league has never been more welcoming to such players than it is today. But before the likes of Steph Curry and Luka Doncic took the NBA by storm, it was Bird who set the stage for the unathletic ones. And he fooled so many guys in the process.

Kobe is one of them. Lucky for him, Larry never got the chance to prove him wrong. 

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