Bryant remembers when he sported an oversize Afro and the No. 8 and was eager to impress Michael Jordan, the player he most admired and respected. The first time they shared the floor in an all-star game more than 12 years ago, Bryant begged for a one-on-one duel with Jordan and angered Karl Malone by waving off a pick, all in an effort to make Jordan recognize that he was there.
"When I was in the league, younger, going against Michael in '98, it might have meant a lot to me, playing against him," Bryant said recently. "But he was thinking about a sixth championship. So we were both hunting; we were just hunting different things."