Hearing the news of Kobe Bryant's retirement was certainly strange for players on a youthful Milwaukee Bucks team. Most players on the Bucks' current roster were toddlers and teens during the prime of Bryant's career, though a number also had the chance to play against Bryant during the later stages of his illustrious career. They remember witnessing his three-peat with the Lakers in the early 2000s, his 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors and at least some of his 17 All-Star game appearances.
This week I asked a few Bucks players what they'll remember most about Bryant, and -- for those who've had the chance -- what it was like to play against one of the greatest players in NBA history.
What will you remember most about Kobe?
Jabari Parker: "I remember when I started watching basketball — like 7th and 8th grade — and really sitting down and watching him dissect the game. Nobody was ever close to even competing against him, that was something amazing back then."
Giannis Antetokounmpo: "He's a great player. When I was younger, I used to watch highlights of him. I never played against him and I want to play against him so bad. The first game I watched, it was against the Celtics in 2010 (the Finals). What can I say, when he retires, we'll definitely miss him. He did a lot for the game and everybody will remember him for sure."
Greg Monroe: "Just how tenacious he was. How serious he was about winning. Whenever I think about him, I think about that. Just consistently having that drive, having that killer instinct to just come out and just win. That's what drove him and he was obviously successful."
O.J. Mayo: "Without a doubt, I'm probably one of the biggest Kobe fans. He was the most hated because he was so great, he never let it throw off his mental (game). He came in thinking he was going to be great, he saw himself being great and he was great."
John Henson: "The clutch shots, the entertainment and championships. When I was young, he was in the NBA. It's kind of crazy to see a player of your time of that caliber (walk away)."
Khris Middleton: "The competitor he was. You hear all the stories about how he was on the court. Just his work ethic, the late nights, early gyms in the morning."
Michael Carter-Williams: "Obviously he's an all-time great, he's probably the hardest worker that I've ever known to play the game. Growing up as a Celtics fan ... Kobe was great, even playing with the Lakers. He's an unbelievable competitor and I really admire that about his game."
What was it like playing against him? (For those who actually played against him)
Monroe: "It was weird at first, but when they're out there trying to beat you (players you idolize), it goes away pretty quickly. I just remember my rookie year, the first time I saw him play, one thing that stood out for me was his feet. When he had the ball on offense, his footwork was impeccable honestly. He was so efficient using his feet, getting to his spots. His footwork was just amazing to me."
Mayo: "I guess when you watch somebody so long, you know everything he's about to do. I'm pretty sure Kobe knew every move Michael Jordan was going to do because he watched him so much, so when I played against him, I just knew stuff. It was just an honor to be on the court with him after watching him play for so long."
Henson: "It was cool being out there. It was an experience to say you had the chance to play against him."
Due to injury, Bryant hasn't played against the Bucks since their March 28, 2013 encounter in Milwaukee, a game the Bucks won despite Bryant's 30 points. However, the Bucks will hopefully see the future hall of famer twice more this season: Dec. 15 in Los Angeles and February 22 in Milwaukee. You can buy tickets for the home matchup here.