Over the course of his near two decades in the NBA, Kobe Bryant has played with a lot of different teammates with only a few leaving an impression on the future Hall of Famer. Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol make his short list of favorites for Bryant, and that comes as no surprise, but there’s another player that left an impression on the future Hall of Famer in a much shorter time frame.
Caron Butler played only one season for the Los Angeles Lakers after being traded by the Miami Heat in the blockbuster deal to acquire Shaquille O’Neal. Although it was only one year in Los Angeles alongside Bryant, the then-24-year-old made a lifetime friend in one of the greatest players to ever play the game.
Bryant spoke highly of his former teammate in Butler’s book, “Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA,” saying the two have a bond that has lasted to this day, via Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times:
Caron and I bonded in day one and that bond remains as strong today as it ever was even though he now wears a different uniform,” Bryant writes. “It’s very rare for me to open up to somebody like that, but I just had a connection with him. He’s one of my favorite teammates.”
“There’s Caron, there’s Pau [Gasol], there’s [Derek Fisher] and Ronnie Turiaf.”
Bryant also thinks very highly of former teammate Lamar Odom, who was also acquired by the Lakers in the O’Neal trade along with Butler and Brian Grant. Butler said he last caught up Bryant when the Sacramento Kings and Lakers faced off in the NBA preseason in Las Vegas on the same night Odom was rushed to the hospital.
Butler has kept a close relationship with Bryant over the years and wants to continue to do so even after their basketball careers are long over. The Kings forward considers Kobe to be a ‘big brother’ and a friend for life, via Pincus:
“[Bryant and I] stay in constant contact, either through text or email. He’s a big brother. I consider him family, somebody I’ll be friends with long after the game of basketball is over. He feels the same way, that’s my brother for life.”
The 35-year-old has bounced around the league quite a bit during his NBA career since being traded to the Lakers back in 2004. Butler has played for nine different teams and may have made his last stop with the Kings.
Butler and Bryant are nearing the end of their careers and could very well announce their intentions to retire near the end of the 2015-16 NBA season. Kobe’s contract with the Lakers will expire after this season while Butler has a player option to return to Sacramento next year.