They have been NBA contemporaries their entire careers, Kobe Bryant doing his job for 19 seasons with the Lakers when healthy and Paul Pierce doing his work for 15 of his 17 years with the Boston Celtics.
Pierce was in Los Angeles with the Washington Wizard to play the Lakers on Tuesday night, but said it “saddens me” to know he won’t get to face Bryant at least one more time.
Bryant is scheduled to have surgery Wednesday to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, putting an end to his season prematurely again.
“It always saddens me, knowing that Kobe is one of my NBA brothers, we lose due to injury,” Pierce said after the Wizards’ shootaround Tuesday morning. “It always saddens me because he works so much harder than a lot of these guys. To have a successful career and to go down to an injury, it always hurts.”
Bryant, 36, and Pierce, 37, have met twice in the NBA Finals.
Pierce won the first battle when he was MVP of the 2008 Finals for leading the Celtics over the Lakers in six games.
Bryant won the next championship meeting when he was named the MVP of the 2010 Finals for leading the Lakers past the Celtics in seven games.
Pierce talked about how fans come to watch Bryant play and how he hopes Bryant can return next season. Bryant does have one year left on his deal for $25 million next season.
“A lot of fans around the league pay to watch Kobe, a lot of fans around the world,” Pierce said. “Regardless of how the Lakers are doing or not, he’s an icon. He’s a player who defined his generation. It’s a lot of people that come out here to see him.”