Retiring Bryant receives high praise from peers

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Kobe Bryant AFP PHOTO

Kobe Bryant AFP PHOTO

LOS ANGELES: The NBA fraternity reacted quickly to Kobe Bryant’s announcement on Sunday (Monday in Manila) that he would retire at the end of the season, with some calling it “sad” while other spoke of his incredible legacy.

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Bryant, 37, one of the greatest US basketball players ever, will retire after spending his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver was one of the first to respond to Bryant’s announcement.

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP (2008), five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game,” Silver said.

“Whether competing in the NBA finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game. I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott spoke to reporters about Bryant’s decision before Sunday’s 107-103 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

“I thought he at least had another year in him,” Scott said. “It kind of shocked me when he told me. Sad more than anything. Somebody I care about, have a lot of respect for, it’s always hard when greatness like Kobe decides to hang it up.”

It’s a unique situation for a Lakers team that lost iconic center Shaquille O’Neal to a departure for Miami, and past legend Magic Johnson to his announcement that he had the HIV virus.

“We’re all sad,” Lakers president Jeanie Buss said. “This era of Lakers basketball has been one of the most fun, exciting prosperous eras we could imagine.”

Johnson told Yahoo Sports that the five-time NBA champion Bryant leaves a lasting legacy.

“He’s the closest thing we’ve seen to Michael Jordan,” Johnson said. “He’ll probably go down as the second-greatest scoring guard. You couldn’t stop him. His will to win was incredible and he stayed in the gym like no other.”

Indiana star forward Paul George said the 37-year-old Bryant will always be an inspiration to him.

“He’s still my idol regardless of him aging and his game changing,” George said.

Shane Battier, who won two NBA titles with the Miami Heat and is now retired, paid Bryant the highest compliment.

“Kobe is the greatest competitor I have ever faced,” Battier said. “I am glad he found peace, I don’t know if we will see another like him. Enjoy the last 66.”

AFP

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