On the surface, there seems to be little in common between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and NBA star Kobe Bryant.
But Bryant said he had a deep respect for the Patriots coach, after a brief meeting during a low point in his career.
Bryant told ESPN NBA writer Jackie MacMullen that Belichick approached him near the end of their Game 6 loss (a 131-92 beatdown) at the hands of the Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals, a night when Bryant himself played poorly, calling it “One of the lowest moments of my career.”
“I’m sitting there on the bench, just beside myself, burning with frustration, and I look over and Bill Belichick is walking toward me,” Bryant said. “I had never met him. Never spoken to him. He had courtside seats across from our bench, and with 20 seconds left in the game, he came over and said, ‘Don’t you worry about this. I know what you are going through. We just lost a tough one ourselves [to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII]. Just bounce back. Be ready next year.’
“He didn’t have to say that. The clock was winding down, we were getting ready to walk off. I thought it was really cool. Respect across our professions.”
Bryant said since then, he and Belichick have talked sports when the Lakers visit Boston, and Belichick even came into the Lakers locker room last season.
“He talked to me about how he coaches the game, how he minimizes mistakes, the value of a possession,” Bryant said. “Very interesting topics.”
While the respect is mutual, Bryant said it didn’t overcome the fact he grew up pulling for a different team, with its own mastermind coach.
“No, I’m an Eagles fan, for better or for worse,” he said. “I’ve got my fingers crossed that this Chip Kelly dude will work out.”
Maybe Belichick and Kelly can offer some advice, since the Lakers are languishing at 23-26 at the moment, not even the best team in their own city any more.