Lakers’ fans know Larry Bird as one of the most fearsome competitors in the history of basketball. They also realize that he’d probably be the last person to heap praise on anything to do with the current Lakers team. But at least in the case of Kobe Bryant, it’s a case of greatness recognizing greatness.
In an interview on the B.S. Report (the Bill Simmons podcast) Bird said that if he could choose any current NBA player to play on his team, he would choose Kobe:
“Well, probably Kobe, because of the fact that … well, of course he wouldn’t have been shooting as much as he does now … but his desire to win, his dedication, to always get better, uh, and he’s just, he’s just tough. He’s just a tough cat.”
“But, if you want to have fun, like I did with Bill Walton, play with LeBron. It would have probably been more fun to play with LeBron, but if you want to win and win and win, it’s Kobe. Not that LeBron’s not a winner, just that [Kobe’s] mindset is to go into every practice, every game, to get better.”
So Kobe to win, LeBron to have fun? Sounds like if you’re a Lakers fan you’d rather have Kobe based on that assessment as well.
Beyond Bryant’s ruthless mentality, it’s his toughness that really sets him apart in Bird’s mind.
“Kobe is one of the toughest human beings I’ve ever seen,” Bird said.
That has to make Kobe, and in turn Lakers’ fans, beam proudly. Nothing like getting praise from a Hall of Fame player from a franchises’ most hated rival.