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Jason Kidd on Kobe Bryant: On and off the court, he’s a champion

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Kidd and Bryant faced off several times during the past 20 years, but only one time did they meet in the NBA Finals.

MN Chan/Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant became the center of the NBA universe on Sunday by announcing his 20th season in the NBA will be his last.

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd competed against Bryant during his 19-year playing career and not surprisingly had high praise for the longtime Laker. Kidd booked Bryant's storied legacy right next to the likes of legendary point guard Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.

"He’s a champion. I think when you look at what he’s done for the game, it’s right there with Magic (Johnson) and Michael (Jordan)," Kidd said before his Bucks took on the Denver Nuggets inside the BMO Harris Bradley Center. "He carried the history of that Lakers franchise and helped build on their championships."

The second-year Bucks coach said his favorite moment against Bryant was when he faced him in the 2002 NBA Finals while a member of the New Jersey Nets (now Brooklyn). Kidd led the Nets to a 52-30 regular season record before his team was swept 4-0 in the series by Los Angeles, who were led by the then-23-year-old Bryant's 26.8 points per game on 51 percent shooting. The championship completed the Lakers' early 2000s three-peat and solidified their mark as an NBA dynasty. Kidd and Bryant weren't always adversaries on the court, however -- they would later team up to help Team USA claim gold at the 2008 Olympics.

"When you go against the best, that's all you ask for is a challenge," Kidd said regarding the series.

"He’ll be dearly missed because he’s a competitor. No matter what age, he was always a threat."

Unfortunately for Bryant, his current age and play on the court hasn't resembled the likes of the 17-time All-Star Kidd battled against in the early 2000s. Bryant is shooting a career-low 30 percent from the floor with an effective field-goal percentage of 34 percent, humiliating numbers for one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history.

Still, Kidd believes Bryant will manage to turn the rough start to his season around before his farewell tour concludes April 13 against Utah.

"On and off the court, he’s a champion. Everybody talks about him struggling now, but in the end he’ll probably have the last laugh of having a successful season."