As Kobe Bryant plays out his 20th and final season with the Lakers, The Times has reached out to players, coaches and broadcasters for recollections about his career.
Isaiah Thomas, an All-Star guard for the Boston Celtics, recalled his favorite memory against Bryant after facing him a final time Sunday.
Thomas, a fifth-year pro, made his NBA debut in 2011 when the Sacramento Kings hosted the Lakers.
Former Kings Coach Paul Westphal inserted Thomas, the final pick in the 2011 draft, to guard Kobe Bryant.
“My first year, it was my first game and Paul Westphal, he had a rule at practice like nobody could back me down, cause they always turned the ball over, and he subbed me in and he said, ‘You got Kobe. Remember, nobody can back you down,” Thomas said.
“He backed me down three straight possessions and scored on me, and I’m just laughing all the way down. That was my first game, so that was my best memory.”
Bryant scored 29 points in the Kings’ 100-91 victory. Thomas scored five.
“He changed the game, not just on the court but off the court, and he means a lot. That’s my favorite player,” Thomas said. “It just means a lot to share this same floor as him and be able to compete against him.”