"It will be a great personality gone," Popovich said Friday before the Lakers played the Spurs. "He's an iconic figure, and when those kind of guys stop playing, the league misses them. You miss them."
Popovich said Bryant's consistent intensity was a rarity.
FULL COVERAGE: Kobe Bryant's final season with the Lakers
"There aren't too many people who understand how you bring it, night after night after night, for all those years at that level, and he's one of the few guys who did that," Popovich said.
Bryant and Spurs' power forward Tim Duncan are both legends who have remained with their respective teams throughout their lengthy careers — Bryant's spanning 20 seasons, Duncan's 19. Both Bryant and Duncan have won five NBA championships.
Lakers Coach Byron Scott said the legends have another similarity.
"I think both of them have a quiet passion — well, Tim has a quiet passion for the game, where Kobe is a little more outspoken for how he loves to play this game," Scott said. "They have so many things that are similar that you just can't see with the naked eye. Those two guys are competitive; Tim is just quiet in the way he does it."
Bryant and the Lakers have won four of the team's seven playoff series against Duncan and the Spurs.
"It was always a dogfight," Popovich said. "Sometimes we came out on top; sometimes the Lakers did."
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