Butler played the 2004-05 season with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he firmly believes that the lessons he learned from Bryant while there played a major role in his development.
"That was the best thing that ever could have happened for me personally for my career," said Butler, who joined the Mavericks as part of a seven-player trade with the Washington Wizards on Feb. 13. "To play alongside a guy like that, see his preparation and what it takes to get to that level, that's why I was able to be so good in Washington. I took everything I learned from him, being under his wing, and took that to Washington and it made me very successful."
Butler, who made the Eastern Conference All-Star team in 2007 while with the Wizards, said he still talks to Bryant every week or two.
He said he watched Bryant's work ethic and learned. He saw how Kobe got to the gym early in the morning and stayed late, how he studied film and prepared for opponents, how he trained during the offseason and used it as the pattern for his schedule.
Butler said he'll put his friendship aside for a couple of hours during Wednesday night's game, and he knows Bryant will do the same.
"He's going to bring it," Butler said. "And then he'll hug me afterwards. That's how he is."