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In 2006, Ronaldinho Said He Would Introduce Kobe To The Best Player Of All Time. It Was Messi

Kobe Bryant has retired, and as much as basketball fans will miss him and his unadulterated desire to win, we all now get to experience what I like to call “Victory Lap Kobe.” Victory Lad Kobe sells out stadiums everywhere he goes, because even the away fans of his most hated rivals still want to see the legend one in action last time.

Victory Lap Kobe has a certain appreciation of everything that’s going on around him because he knows everything he does could end up being the last time he does it, and he might not even know it at the time.

But what we can really cherish goes so far beyond bus trips and photo opps: we are seeing his interviews reach a level of candidness and appreciation that has never been seen before, the latest example being of Kobe telling the tale of Kobe meeting Messi. 

As some of you might already know, Bryant loves soccer. He grew up in Italy (where his father played professional basketball) and picked up the nations love for the game. Obviously he couldn’t ignore the call of the basketball, but he has held on to an appreciation for football ever since. 

It is not that surprising then, that years before things like social media and the growth of popularity of football in the US pushed today’s American sporting stars closer to their European footballing counterparts, Kobe had close ties to the biggest footballer in the world back in 2006, Ronaldinho. 

In an interview with ESPN, Kobe shared the details of when Ronaldinho introduced Kobe to Lionel Messi back in 2006. As someone who does not speak Spanish I only know what is in the clip featuring the anecdote, translated in subtitles below. You can find the full video and article in Spanish here.


In order to understand what might have gone through Kobe’s head when Messi was introduced to Kobe by Ronaldinho as the future greatest player of all time, we need to understand the kind of competitor Kobe Bryant is.

You can probably count the number of basketball players in the history of the league more competitive that Kobe Bryant on one hand. He used to play 1-on-1 games to 100, and would win 100 to 12; any basketball player or fan will tell you how ridiculous it is to win by a margin of almost 10:1.

The first time he played against Michael Jordan, he was warned to not look Jordan in the eye, to which he responded “Excuse me? Why would I not look him in the eye.” Kobe didn’t mean he didn’t understand, he meant “ you can’t look me in the eye either, buddy.” The list goes on, and Kobe has the championship rings to go along with it.

Kobe meeting Messi

Photo: YouTube


So it must have been unfamiliar if not downright confusing for Kobe to hear Ronaldinho — who was at the pinnacle of world soccer in 2006, who was the most exciting player in the world, who was an equal of Bryant in a different sport — say that a teenager was not just better than him, but the future best player of all time.

That’s just not something that Kobe would have ever said out loud back in 2006. He scored 81 points in a game that year; it’s entirely possible Kobe thought a teenager couldn’t even comprehend what it was like to be as good as he and Ronaldinho were. But Ronaldinho could, and it must be said that he was right.

During the interview, you can see that Kobe now appreciates how prophetic Ronaldinho was that day, how amazing Kobe meeting Messi at the age of 17 really was, and how much he appreciates the place in history that he, Messi, and Ronaldinho have assumed. The legend of Kobe Bryant is vast, and as he winds down his career, he can’t help but acknowledge how many other legends he has seen along the way.

Related: Ronaldinho Named His Dream XI And You Won't Believe Who's On It

Ronaldinho Dream XI

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