Kobe Bryant was unable to play against Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks on Tuesday due to a sore right shoulder, but the two have battled head-to-head 49 times throughout their storied careers. So, in Bryant's final NBA season, it perhaps isn't all that surprising that even in defeat, he'd be willing to show Nowitzki some on-court respect.
After Nowitzki hit what turned out to be the game-winner with 2.1 seconds left, he ended up right near where Bryant was standing on the sidelines, and the two shared a brief physical exchange that expressed their mutual admiration.
"I heard him talk some noise during the game, so that was fun," Nowitzki said afterward, via ESPN. "It was just fun competition down the stretch. ... I'm not really a big trash-talker, but once I'm talked to, I'll have some fun."
"He's our Michael Jordan for my generation," Nowitzki said of Bryant. "He's one of the best to ever lace `em up, and it's been a pleasure and an honor to compete against him basically almost my entire career."
Bryant was the fiercest of competitors during the height of his playing days, and would never have done something like this while competing for titles. But in his 20th and final season, it appears he's far more appreciative of his contemporaries, and isn't afraid to show it.
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