Rick Carlisle calls Kobe Bryant 'one of the greatest competitors' of all time

LOS ANGELES -- Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is, of course, disappointed that Kobe Bryant is sitting out his final game against the Mavs with a sore right shoulder.

Bryant has plenty of history facing Carlisle-coached teams through the years, though. To be fair, Bryant has plenty of history facing everyone, given that he has been in the league for 20 seasons.

That said, leading into Tuesday night’s game at Staples Center, Carlisle was happy to gush about Bryant and share memories about the Los Angeles Lakers' 37-year-old star.

“I guess one of the most memorable things for me about Kobe Bryant is that when we moved to Dallas in the spring of 2008, our daughter was 4 years old,” Carlisle said. “When she turned 5, one of my most vivid recollections was the first opposing player’s name that she mentioned by herself was Kobe Bryant. She said to me, ‘Daddy, who do you guys play tomorrow?’ I said, ‘We play the Lakers.’ She said, ‘That’s Kobe Bryant, right?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ She goes, ‘That’s trouble.’

“I don’t know if I want to remember [what happened in that game]. But you’re talking about a 5-year-old girl. That’s a pretty vivid memory. That just goes to show, there’s just such universal respect for what he’s done in the game, for the game, and for all of us as competitors, from top to bottom. You go from players to coaches to media to owners to everything else. He’s raised the level.”

Carlisle called Bryant “one of the greatest competitors in the history of our game” and said Bryant has had an “unbelievable and amazing career.”

Carlisle also recalled the 2000 NBA Finals, when he was an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers, who were facing Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and the Lakers.

The Lakers won that series, four games to two. It was Bryant’s first NBA title.

Bryant didn’t play in Game 3 of that series, though, because of a sprained ankle suffered in the previous game. But he returned in the next game and scored 28 points in an overtime win.

“That was really the pivotal game in the series,” Carlisle said. “I don’t remember everything about that game, but the bigger the moments, the greater the magnitude of the performance with him.

“[He was] very similar to [Michael] Jordan in that way. Jordan came out of school the same year that I did in the ACC. I’ve watched his career very closely and played against him for two years in college. There are great similarities. He’ll be missed, but he’ll be back in some capacity. I’m pretty sure of that.”