Playing Against Your Idol Can Be Strange
Sunday, February 3, 2008
A handful of Washington Wizards were sitting around the locker room in Toronto before Wednesday's game against the Raptors when the subject of greatest all-time players came up.
Some veterans mentioned Michael Jordan, but rookie Nick Young, who grew up in Los Angeles and played at Southern California, wasn't afraid to state his case.
"Kobe," Young said. "Kobe's the man."
The discussion illustrated an interesting generational shift taking place in a league that was once dominated by Jordan.
To players such as Young, 21, who was still in grade school when Jordan was winning championships in Chicago, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant is the face of the game.
"For the younger guys, it's Kobe, Allen Iverson, [Kevin] Garnett -- guys like that," Young said. "We grew up watching them. Jordan played in the generation before us. When Kobe went for 81, I was in college watching it so I had to like him. I've seen Kobe's 11 years in this league."
Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan grew up admiring players like Austin Carr and Walt Frazier and was thrilled when he became their teammate as a rookie with Cleveland in 1977 so he understands what Young will feel today when he faces Bryant for the first time.
"It's almost like you admire what he does even though you're an opponent," Jordan said. "You have to admire the high-level basketball players in this league whether you are coaching them or you're a player facing them. You hope that it raises your guy's level of awareness of why great players are great. How they communicate with their teammates, how they rise to the occasion when a team gets heated and all of the things they do."
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