The late great Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki aren't just two NBA Hall of Famers, NBA Champions, and MVPs. They shared a special bond – they are NBA lifers. A dying breed of NBA players, the two always had an exceptional level of appreciation for that, caring about spending their entire career on the same team. Both had times when they considered leaving in chase of a championship, but they stayed in the end with the franchise that drafted them.
The majority of NBA eras can be described through rivalries. The 2000s in the West had a triangle of the Lakers – Spurs – Mavs as the most consistent franchises in the '00s. Other teams had a two or 3-year run, but these franchises were near the top for over a decade. When you see someone so many times in the playoffs and know you have to go through them to reach the top, they become your obsession.
Similar to what Magic and Bird had – checking each other's box score every night, putting in extra work knowing the other guy is probably in the gym right now. Having a rival like that makes you better. In the end, the same thing happens every time – you start to appreciate that guy more than other players. A unique level of respect is achieved.
So when Dirk named Kobe as "the best player I've ever seen or played against," no surprise there. He saw Kobe do insane things on the floor and had to accept there was no stopping him if he's feeling it that night. One story came to Dirk's mind in particular.
"One time, we had him in the corner, and the shot clock was going down. It was right in front of our bench. Somebody played him from the top side, so he couldn't turn over his left shoulder and shoot with the right. So he's stuck there, sees the shot clock. Just turns around, shoots it with the left – draws a three-pointer from the corner. His skill level was unbelievable."
Dirk played 1522 NBA games. When he remembers a regular-season game from the' 04/'05 season in 2019, you know it was something special. That's the play you think about when putting in that 1000th shot of the day, watching film, or doing that one last set in the gym.