Kobe Shows Respect For Dirk's Game-Winner

Dirk Nowitzki buries the game-winning jumper and gets congratulated by Kobe Bryant.

With the score knotted at 90 and 15 seconds to go, everyone in the building knew where the ball would go: Dirk Nowitzki.

That even included Kobe Bryant, who was standing on the Lakers sideline, out with a sore shoulder. This would have been the final time the two shared an NBA floor, but the injury bug had a different plan in mind. Bryant would have to watch as Nowitzki patiently milked the clock, waiting for the precise second to make his move, while Julius Randle hung on his hip.

His time came. He ripped through, he stepped, he bounced, he rose, he shot. He hit. With 2.1 seconds left, he’d given Dallas the lead.

But his move wasn’t done. Nowitzki fell backward into the Lakers bench, right into the hands of Bryant. The Lakers legend patted Dirk on the rear, and the Mavs legend dapped him back. Then he ran to the Mavs huddle once L.A. called timeout.

It was a moment suspended in time. You just don’t see things like that every day — or ever, really. These are two all-time greats, players with a long history against one another, warriors of the game with loads of mutual respect. That was quite a moment. Dallas would later win the game after a Randle buzzer-beater glanced off the rim.

“It was a pleasure to compete against (Bryant), to get to know him at some All-Star Games, see how he ticks, see how he clicks, see how he thinks, picking his brain on occasions… it’s been incredible for us,” Nowitzki said the day before the game. “I think (Kevin Durant) said it best: Of our generation, he was our Michael Jordan. The shot-making, the playmaking, the clutch shots, scoring at will at times — it was incredible to watch.

“I always say there were times when we played at home and it was like 11 o’clock and it’s only 9 o’clock (in L.A.) and I sat on the couch watching the Lakers fourth quarter, watching Kobe take over games. It’s something I’ll always remember — his clutch gene and his ability to make tough shots.”

In this case, Nowitzki was the one to hit tough shots down the stretch. After starting 2 of 10 from the field, he hit three of his final four shots in the last five minutes of the game to lead the Mavs to a win the club desperately needed. It’s a routine we’ve seen time and time again for the last 18 seasons, the same show Bryant has put on for his fans for 20 seasons — Nowitzki included.

We might not have gotten the Dirk and Kobe showdown we all hoped to see, but that moment, that one-second exchange after Dirk drained yet another impossible shot, will last a while.

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