Kobe Bryant’s tragic, unexpected passing on Sunday was felt throughout the NBA community and across the world. He was a role model to so many of the game’s current stars, and he will always be remembered by those who played with and against him as a fierce competitor who had an unmatched work ethic in everything he did.
Paul Pierce’s NBA career intersected with Kobe’s many times over the years, including in a pair of NBA Finals as they carried on the rich traditions of the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. Paul’s NBA story cannot be complete with the presence of Kobe Bryant, as is the case with so many great players across the league. So when Paul first heard the news of the tragic accident, he was shocked and saddened as if a family member had passed.
“I felt like I lost a brother. I felt like I lost a family member,” Pierce said. “We had a lot of great moments together on and off the court, and he brought the very best out of me.”
After Pierce defeated Kobe’s Lakers in the 2008 Finals, Kobe wanted his revenge against Boston. The Lakers won the title the following season in 2009, defeating the Orlando Magic, but that wasn’t enough for Kobe. In 2010, he got his rematch with Boston, and the second time, he wouldn’t accept defeat.
Pierce was a key part of this series for the Celtics, and the thing he remembers most about that series wasn’t Kobe’s impressive shot-making ability or scoring prowess. Kobe’s most impressive trait in that series, the one that earned him his fifth ring, was his determination.
“His will. He didn’t have the best Game 7, but he willed his teammates,” Pierce said.
Outside of basketball, Paul and Kobe crossed paths while working extensively with The Players’ Tribune. It was there that Paul realized the massive amount of respect that Kobe commanded. Even among a room full of other superstar athletes, Kobe was the one who had command of the room, which is part of the reason Paul believes he had so much success after his basketball career.
“He captivated the room because we had all these meetings with all of these superstar athletes – Von Miller, Serena Williams, all in a room every summer – and every meeting would start off with Kobe talking. Not the business people who invested talking about where the company is. It was Kobe,” Pierce said. “He took the lead in all of these things, and that just shows you the presence he had.”