While the NBA is now officially in a new era with the Los Angeles Lakers and a host of other teams sporting elite All-Star duos, there’s still plenty of reverence for the most recent generation, which includes Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant.
Nowitzki and Bryant played in a similar, but very different era where player movement was more minimized and there was something to be said about staying with one team for a whole career.
Nowitzki and Bryant defined this by playing two decades with their respective teams. Bryant played 20 seasons with the Lakers from 1996-2016 while Nowitzki played an NBA-record 21 seasons with the Dallas Mavericks from 1998-2019. The two players each had Hall of Fame career that overlapped considerably. The two faced each other 53 times in 16 seasons with Bryant winning 32 of them.
Through all of this, Nowitzki recalls his matchups with Bryant in high regard, saying that he is the best offensive player and the best player that he ever faced off against during his time in the NBA, according to an interview with ShotScience Basketball:
This is not the first time Nowitzki has said this about Bryant with the first of these comments coming in 2015. So not only is this extremely high praise, but it’s also been consistent from when both players were still playing in the NBA.
While Nowitzki and Bryant was never truly a rivalry, there’s something to be said about the sheer volume of times these two players have played against one another and how great both players were in these matchups.
In games against Nowitzki, Bryant put up 25.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per contest. On the flip side, Nowitzki had 23.0 points and 9.9 rebounds when facing off against Bryant.
Players like these will always have great respect for each other and be given great respect by the game of basketball no matter where it goes stylistically. This is just the effect that all-time greats can have on a sport and that’s what Nowitzki has seen in Bryant for two decades.