With Kobe Bryant’s 20-year career in the NBA officially coming to an end this week, the Los Angeles Lakers will head into a different era without their face of the franchise leading the way. Along with the Lakers having to move on from the Kobe era in Los Angeles, many of his peers and coaches around the league have marveled at the five-time NBA champion’s career and legacy, including Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons.
Before heading into a first-round of the NBA playoffs against LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers, Van Gundy was asked about Bryant’s career and the future Hall of Famer walking heading into retirement after 20 seasons with the Lakers. Van Gundy said the following, via Vince Ellis of Detroit Free Press:
“The guy had one of the great careers of all time,” Van Gundy said Friday. “He did it all for one team. He not only had tremendous individual accomplishments, he won five championships, so there’s very few guys who’ve ever played this game that have had more success in terms of individual play and team play.”
Van Gundy witnessed Bryant’s greatness firsthand back in 2009 with the superstar leading to the Lakers past his Orlando Magic in convincing fashion during the NBA Finals. Los Angeles dominated Orlando in that series winning the title in five games and ending Van Gundy’s best chance of winning a championship thus far.
With Bryant retiring, the Lakers brass has an extremely tough task ahead to replace an iconic player that has led the team over the course of two decades. Los Angeles will attempt to make some major moves in the NBA offseason with superstar Kevin Durant in the team’s crosshairs once free agency gets underway on July 1.
As for Van Gundy, the Pistons head coach hopes to pull off the improbable upset over the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.