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Kobe Bryant's former teammates call him 'serious competitor' and 'the best'

Kobe Bryant's former teammates call him 'serious competitor' and 'the best'
Kobe Bryant shares a laugh with former teammate Derek Fisher on the court after scoring 60 points in his last game as a Laker at Staples Center. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

All of them came to celebrate and honor former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant.

Each of them had to be at Staples Center on Wednesday night to watch Bryant play his final game as a Laker, to share in his moment, to be a part of his glory just one more time after 20 years of glorious moments.

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These former Lakers have won championships with Bryant, drank champagne with him and watched him grow into one of the best players ever in the NBA.

"I'm sure it will be a sad day for a lot of people," said Shaquille O'Neal, who argued and fought with Bryant but still won three championships with him.

"The feeling for me is like when Dr. J [Julius Erving] couldn't play anymore. I was like, 'Man.' And then Dominique [Wilkins] and Mike [Jordan] and [Patrick] Ewing and then myself.

"It happens to us all. But Kobe has had a tremendous career."

Rick Fox, who won three titles playing with Bryant, became a defensive player and a spot-up shooter when he played with Bryant.

"It was easy at times because of his excellence and also because he made all of us better, just like Shaq made all of us better," Fox said. "When you play with the best, he makes you a lot better than you are."

The Lakers said there were between 21 and 24 of Bryant's former teammates who came to say goodbye.

Many shared their favorite stories about Bryant.

Brian Shaw won three championships with Bryant, but his most memorable time was as an assistant coach with the Lakers.

"He had 62 points against Dallas, and they only had 61 at the end of the third," Shaw recalled.

He said Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said, " 'Brian, ask Kobe if he wants to stay in the game and hit 70.' We were up 30, so I went over and I said, 'Phil wants to know if you want to stay in and score eight more points and get to 70 and he'll take you out.' He looked at the scoreboard and saw we were up 30 and said, 'Naw, I'll get it another time when we really need it.' I got mad. I was like, there aren't many people who can say they scored 70 points in a game.

"So it was like three weeks later and he had 81 against Toronto. But that's my favorite story because I couldn't believe that he wouldn't want to stay in the Dallas game, knowing him too. And then he turns around and gets 81."

"He's such a competitor," said Robert Horry, who won three of his seven NBA championships with Bryant. "He's one of those guys that practiced hard every day. He did his thing religiously. You've got to love a guy that loves his craft and be the best."

Devean George traveled all the way from Minneapolis to see Bryant play one last time.

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The two won three championships together.

"I remember just that he was a serious, psycho competitor," George said. "It was like, 'This is what we do, but take this serious. This is not a game. This is our livelihood. This is serious.' And that's like one of the things that I remember the most.

"He was serious about this thing. It was like, 'We're going to get this thing done. We're going to win this chip. There's nothing else for us to do but win this and this is serious. Game time. Oh, it's on!'"

George laughed.

A.C. Green won two championships during the "Showtime" era with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But he played one season, in 1999-2000, with Bryant and remembers how much the 6-6 guard yearned to learn.

"He was like a kid in the third or fourth grade who just really discovered not only reading but a library and you could discover and learn through books," Green said. "He was full of questions. I was really cool about it because he asked me so many since I was one of the elder statesmen on the team."

Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter:@BA_Turner

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