The most common answers from Wizards players and coaches this week when asked to recall Kobe Bryant's career in light of his double jersey retirement dealt with two things: wonderment over Bryant having two jersey numbers raised to the rafters and admiration of his effort and attitude on the court.
Head coach Scott Brooks played and coached against Bryant. The one game he opposed him on the court was in 1998 when Brooks was on the Cavs and Bryant was a 19-year-old bench player for the Lakers.
"Playing against him, I didn't think he was going to be a very good player," Brooks joked. "You knew he had special talent. He had the physical characteristics and the desire to be great. His competitives is unmatched."
As a coach, Brooks was amazed when trying to develop defensive strategies to stop Bryant. Through experience and studying film, Bryant had seen everything before.
Brooks coached against Bryant when he was No. 24 and by then he was the most astute player in the game.
"To be able to do what he did, for 20 years and it was almost identical from No. 8 to No. 24 is just incredible to me," Brooks said. "Somebody said he could be a Hall of Famer in each one, which is pretty cool."
Indeed, the statistical split between jersey No. 8 and No. 24 is almost dead-on. He played 10 seasons with each number. In No. 8, he won three titles and scored 16,866 points. In No. 24, he won two championships and scored 16,777 points.
Wizards star John Wall has done plenty to separate his No. 2 jersey from others in Wizards/Bullets franchise history as a four-time All-Star with several team records. But he can't imagine being able to recreate what Bryant did in his two uniforms.
"Once in a lifetime," Wall said.
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Would Wall be interested in giving it a shot, changing his number to emulate Bryant and go for a double jersey retirement someday?
"That's if I can win two championships. I have to try to win one in this one first, then try the other one," he said.
Wall played against Bryant more times than Brooks and what stands out to him most is how fierce a competitor he was. Bryant was cordial off the court, before and after games. But once the ball tipped, he was ruthless.
"Every time he stepped on the court, he was dominant every day. He didn't care who it was against, whether it was practice or a game, or shootaround or 1-on-1. He just had that killer mindset. I haven't seen anybody with that type of killer instinct," Wall said.
No one compares to Bryant in that category, but there is one guy who stands out as the closest in today's game.
"The person that plays that type of dog I probably would say Russell [Westbrook]. He just goes all out. He doesn't care, it doesn't matter. No friends, no nothing. That's the closest guy I would say to having that Kobe mentality," Wall said.
Wall can be included in that mix of contemporary players who have the old school mindset of their opponents as enemies. But, as he said himself, no one quite compares to Kobe.
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