Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 7/8/12

If you had asked Kobe Bryant for his thoughts on Steve Nash a few months ago, he probably wouldn’t have been too complimentary. The Suns and Lakers have been too competitive over the past several seasons for Bryant to gush over his rival. But now that they’re on the same side, Kobe is offering a completely different tune. In fact, he says the two have a strong bond because they’re part of the same draft class.

“We’ve obviously had our moments and had our battles, but at the core of it was two guys who came in the league the same year (1996),” Bryant said, according to ESPNLA. “Myself, him, Ray Allen, we’re pretty much the last ones left. And there’s kind of a bond that comes with that. It’s a little bigger than some of the rivalries that we’ve had.”

Bryant says Nash reached out to him before asking for a trade to the Lakers to see if he’d be welcome.

“It was more like he wanted to know if I’d be OK with it because he knows how competitive I am and obviously the history we’ve had,” Bryant said. “But I said, ‘Our bond coming in the league together in ’96, especially he and I, because we weren’t necessarily highly regarded coming into that draft. That bond is much bigger than the rivalry we had with Phoenix.’”

Again, Kobe doesn’t say these things if they’re on opposing teams, but he feels comfortable saying it now. And does he feel pride that they’re kind of the last men standing from that draft class? No doubt.

The 1996 NBA Draft is regarded as one of the best ever. In addition to producing Bryant and Nash, Allen Iverson was the top pick and all three became NBA MVPs. Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Jermaine O’Neal, Peja Stojakovic, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and Antoine Walker were also in the same class and became All-Stars, but only Allen remains a factor. Given how many games the two have played, and where everyone else is from that draft class, still being successful should be a source of pride for both men.

This article first appeared on Larry Brown Sports and was syndicated with permission.

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