Before Kobe Bryant played his final game in the Bay Area, current Warriors GM Jerry West aka The Logo aka The 2nd greatest Lakers shooting guard of all-time, gave an emotional tribute to the player he made a Laker two decades ago on draft night.
“Kobe, 20 years ago is a long time ago,” West said. “I had an opportunity to meet a 17-year-old kid who had the dream to be one of the greatest players of all time. I saw something really special in you and it didn’t have to do so much with your enormous skill at 17 years of age. You could almost feel this incredible determination and desire to compete and excel.
“Twenty years later, I look back. I was right. The Lakers were right and I see this incredible basketball player with a resume that’s almost second to none. It’s a sad night but a very special night to have a chance to honor someone who has earned the respect of not only Lakers fans but fans throughout the world and particularly in all the NBA arenas. You’ve been an unbelievably special player.”
The heartfelt words had Bryant smiling and on the verge of tears before standing up and waving to the chanting crowd.
“That was a tough one for me to get through,” Bryant said after the game. “That got me a little bit.”
“He’s the man that believed in me from the beginning. The conversation that I had with him sitting in the Forum locker room and just being in awe of sitting in Magic [Johnson]’s locker and sitting next to Jerry West talking about basketball. That’s before anybody knew anything. That was special.”
JERRY WEST ON KOBE BRYANT (1996)
Watching the tribute took me back to the day I hit record on my VHS player and taped the above feature from NBA Today (miss that show!). In the feature, which took place before Kobe ever stepped foot on a NBA court, Jerry West said, “Kobe Bryant can go get a shot for himself anytime he wants.”
The interviewer interrupts him and says, “Even in the NBA?”
West responds with a confident “Yes he will. Yes he will.”
Jerry West was right. He did know how unbelievably special the 17 year old kid was.