The Los Angeles Lakers will end their eight-game road trip on Saturday against James Harden and the Houston Rockets. It will be the second-to-last time Kobe Bryant will face the Rockets at the Toyota Center in Houston with his last appearance set to take place on Jan. 17.
Harden, a Los Angeles native and admitted Laker fan as a kid, recently talked about the impact Bryant has had on his life and basketball career.
The three-time All-Star said the following about the five-time NBA champion via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
“Man, I’ve admired him since I was growing up,” Harden said. “Being a Laker fan and watching him, all the achievements and things that he accomplished, and how much of a warrior he is. The Kobe Bryant era is over. Obviously we all knew it was going to happen sometime, but for it to be here, it’s sad.”
Along with idolizing Bryant while growing up in Los Angeles, Harden appreciated the support Kobe gave him during the NBA playoffs last year. The veteran guard exchanged text messages with Bryant leading up to the Rockets facing off against the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Kobe encouraged the up-and-comer superstar to leave it all out on the basketball floor, via Feigen:
“When we were in the playoffs last year, he sent me texts, giving me that encouragement to just leave it on the court. That right there was probably the best perk of all just because he’s a guy you watched growing up and now he’s sending you text messages. That’s what life’s about.”
Harden will have only three more opportunities to go head-to-head with Bryant in the NBA including Saturday’s showdown in Houston. The 26-year-old will likely cherish every minute as he says goodbye to a player that has influenced so much on and off the court over the years.