The Los Angeles Lakers will face off against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs this Friday for the first time this season. Not only will it be the first time the Spurs come to town, but it will also be the first time they’ll go up against Kobe Bryant since Jan. 9, 2013.
With the matchup against the Lakers right around the corner, head coach Gregg Popovich was asked about Kobe returning while the Spurs went through their shootaround before taking on the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night. Popovich had nothing but high praise for Bryant and the impact he has on the league, via Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:
Having Kobe back is huge,” Popovich said. “It’s huge for the whole league, and not just his team. He’s an icon as a basketball player. To not have him out there is a big loss for everybody.”
The Lakers and Spurs have been rivals ever since Kobe came into the league back in 1996. Both franchises have won five titles during the Kobe and Tim Duncan era with numerous meetings in the playoffs.
Despite a healthy rivalry between the two teams when they were both dominant teams in the Western Conference, Popovich and Bryant have displayed nothing but respect for one another.
Back in May, Kobe said he was “jealous” of Duncan for being able to play under a great head coach his entire career. Duncan has been able to play for Popovich throughout his 17 years in the league while Kobe has seen his fair share of coaches come and go in Los Angeles.
Byron Scott could the last in a long line of head coaches for Kobe Bryant that included Phil Jackson, Mike Brown, Mike D’Antoni and Del Harris to name a few. Only Jackson has been able to lead turn the Kobe-led Lakers into champions winning five rings with the team in two stints with the team.
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