Bryant: 'I hated Larry, but I loved him'

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Bryant: 'I hated Larry, but I loved him'

BOSTON We know about Kobe Bryant donning jersey No. 8 as well as his current No. 24.

But did you know No. 33 is also dear and near to his heart?

And as Bryant tells you, it had nothing to do with Larry Legend.

Bryant said he used to wear the number because his father, uncle, grandmother and cousin all wore the number.

"My younger cousin that came in after me, he wore 33 as well," Bryant said.

While Larry Bird had nothing to do with Bryant's choice of jersey number as a youth, that doesn't take away from the respect he has for a man that, surprisingly, he says he has never met before.

"I hated Larry, but I loved him," Bryant said. "To this date, I have never met him. Never. Not once."

When asked by Comcast SportsNet's Carolyn Manno if meeting Bird was on his bucket list, Bryant responded, "hell yeah! Absolutely."

Bryant said the closest he came to meeting Bird was during the 1997 NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland when the NBA unveiled its 50 Greatest Players.

Bird was among the players named to the team.

Bryant wasn't an All-Star that year, but he did participate in -- and win -- the Slam Dunk competition.

"Our paths never crossed," Bryant said. "It's crazy."

Bird recently said that Bryant would be the one player in the NBA now that he would want to play with if he was chasing a championship ring.

"It means the world to me, because I looked up to him and his work ethic," Bryant said when told of Bird's comments. "I always viewed him as being a staple of a blue-collar player that's been blessed with a great deal of talent. His determination, his motivation I remember some of the quotes I heard from (Comcast SportsNet analyst and NBA Hall of Famer) Tommy Heinsohn describing Larry Bird, that was very moving to me when I was a kid. I said, 'if I can be that way, I feel I can be pretty good.' So I kind of followed his lead in that regard. To hear him have that kind of praise for me, means a lot."

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