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.
Ron Harper was a guard on the Lakers’ title teams with Bryant in the early 2000s, the two winning back-to-back championships in 2000-2001. Here is Harper’s story:
“At first when I got there to L.A. (for the 1999-2000 season), it was difficult. He wanted to do his thing. He wanted to run the triangle. He wanted to be The Man and everything.
“We bumped heads somewhat, but we just talked it out. I asked him what was best for our basketball team. I told him we’re going to go to Shaquille [O’Neal] early in the game as the first option, we’re are going to Shaq second and third in our offense. Now in the fourth quarter, I told Shaq we were going to Kobe now.
“It took him a little while, but he finally saw how good our team could become. I told him great players have championship rings and he wanted championship rings.
“The sad thing about the whole thing is, just think about how many championships him and Shaq could have won as a team. That’s the saddest thing about this whole thing. Kobe had an awesome career and he won [five] championship rings, but how many rings could him and Shaq have won? I don’t know. I think it would have been a lot, though. They could have gotten five. They could have gotten six. We won’t ever no. But them two will go down as one of the top 10 best duos ever.
“Everybody always ask me who was better, MJ [Michael Jordan] or Kobe because I played with both of them in their heyday, in their prime. Kobe was great and I mean great, one of the best ever. But MJ, he was out of this world. Who would you want to take the last shot in a game, MJ or Kobe? MJ, right? OK then. I’m taking No. 23, MJ. But I have so much respect for Kobe and I know that he’s at peace now and he’s going out and having fun.”
Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter @BA_Turner