Tuesday night would have marked the 54th and final matchup, but Bryant sat out with a sore right shoulder.
Nowitzki sank the dagger jumper on one of his patented fade-away rainbow shots along the baseline, right in front of where Bryant was sitting on the Lakers’ bench.
After the shot went through, Nowitzki quickly went over and patted the Lakers star, and Bryant patted him back.
Even if he missed the game, the 37-year-old Bryant said he’s sure that he’ll face the 37-year-old Nowitzki at some point down the road.
“When no cameras are around, I’m sure we’ll get together and we’ll have a beer or two and play against each other one-on-one,” Bryant said before the game.
Nowitzki offered nothing but praise for Bryant.
“Like I said, this entire time, he’s our Michael Jordan, for our generation,” Nowitzki said. “He’s one of the best to ever lace ‘em up. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to compete against him basically almost my entire career."
Nowitzki added, “The league is going to miss one of the greatest to ever play. His competitiveness, his clutch shots, that’s what I remember the most.
“I always tell the story, after games sometimes, we were in Central time, I was rushing home to watch Kobe do his thing in the fourth quarter when they were in L.A.”
When asked what he’ll miss most about Nowitzki, Bryant said it’s the trash talk.
“He’s one of the rare guys that would talk trash and he and I would talk back and forth all the time and have those conversations and I always got a kick out of it,” Bryant said. “I said, ‘Dirk, I can’t understand your accent. Enunciate!’ But he dished it right back, man. I miss that. I miss that.”
Said Nowitzki, “I’m not really a big trash-talker. Once I’m talked to, I’ll have some fun.”
Bryant also reflected on his Dec. 20, 2005, scoring outburst against the Mavericks, when he scored 62 points in three quarters and didn’t play in the fourth in a blowout win. Bryant actually outscored the Mavericks in three quarters in that game: 62-61.
“I was in such a grove. I just felt like I could run all day,” Bryant said. “I could see how the game was flowing before it actually happened. My shot felt extremely accurate. It was just one of those nights.”
In 31 minutes, Bryant made 18 of 31 field goals, including 4-of-10 from beyond the arc. He also made 22-of-25 from the free throw line.
“In our generation, he was the greatest shot-maker we had,” Nowitzki said.
Had he stayed in the game, could Bryant have scored at least 80 points that night?
“Yeah. It sounds funny to say, but yes, I would have,” Bryant said.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Bryant have had some fun exchanges through the years.
Most notably, in February 2013, Cuban said that the Lakers should use the amnesty provision on Bryant, then Bryant scored 38 points and added 12 rebounds and seven assists in a win over Dallas.
“Amnesty THAT,” Bryant tweeted after the game.
“[Cuban] texted me right after the game. He said, ‘Dude, that’s the sweetest tweet,’” Bryant said Tuesday.
J.A. Adande contributed to this report.