Dirk Nowitzki Breaks Down Why He's a 'Huge Fan' of Kobe Bryant

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2013

May 6, 2011; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) drives in the first quarter of game three against Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) of the second round of the 2011 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Kobe Bryant hasn't encountered many shortages during his 16-plus-year career.

He's seen both individual (15 All-Star Game selections, 2007-08 NBA MVP) and team (five championships) successes. His body has afforded him a clean bill of health, missing more than 15 games in just three seasons.

But if there was one thing he's missed in his career, it would have to be fan support. 

Sure, there are a number of Bryant supporters around the league, passionate as any player's fanbase can get.

But he's largely held a love-hate relationship with basketball fans over the league.

After speaking with Grantland.com's Zach Lowe recently, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki showed he's clearly on the "love" side of that debate.

Lowe prodded the Dallas shot-maker for his favorite shots around the league. Nowitzki used the platform to dive into a gushing adoration of Bryant even "Mamba" haters would have to appreciate.

"I was always a huge fan of Kobe," Nowitzki said. "When I get home, at like 11 p.m., I know the fourth quarter will be just starting in L.A., and I'll sit down and watch him basically will his team to win with some incredible shots."

It clearly sounds as if Nowitzki has kept close tabs on his conference rivals. While Bryant hasn't willed the 25-28 Lakers to as many wins as he'd like, he's done everything in his power to give Laker fans as much success as he can generate.


He reinvented himself midseason from an extraordinary scorer to the Lakers' best distributor (eight or more assists in eight of his last 11 games), seemingly ceding his chance at adding a third scoring title to his historically impressive resume. He's drawn the toughest defensive perimeter assignment on the team and still found a way to crash the glass (seven-plus rebounds in seven games over that same stretch).

But Nowitzki (career 22.7 points per game) has particularly enjoyed Bryant's scoring prowess (career 25.5 points per game).

Nowitzki rattled off several of his favorite aspects of Bryant's offense, like "the athleticism, the balance in the air, the lefty shots."

Nowitzki then shared a common sentiment among Bryant's supporters.

"To me, he's the no. 1 player over the 15 years I've been in this league," he said.

Here's where most Bryant haters draw the line. They cite his immensely talented supporting cast during his five championship seasons. They attribute a lot of his scoring success to his tireless shooting approach (career 19.7 field-goal attempts per game).

These hollow criticisms ignore the fact that all of the league's all-time greats would've never enjoyed the same team success without, well, a team around them. Or that Bryant has been wildly successful with that heavy offensive load (career 45.3 field-goal percentage).

Detractors have their reasons for disliking Bryant, and they're certainly entitled to their opinions.

But by the numbers, there are no arguments keeping Bryant out of the all-time great discussions. Even his biggest critics will come around eventually—his accomplishments are too great not to.

And when that time comes, Nowitzki and the rest of his supporters will be ready to fill them in on all the great "Mamba" moments they may have missed.