Dan Dickau didn’t have many on-court interactions with Kobe Bryant, but one perfectly captured Bryant’s legendary attention to detail.
Dickau was with the New Orleans Hornets in 2005, directing one of the plays in the team’s Princeton offense against the Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers.
“It’s the middle of the second quarter and you get into the crux of the game, and a lot of times it’s easier to enter the ball for a few possessions,” Dickau recalled. “It’s easy to just go through the motions, and I kind of did that. He jumped into the passing lane on my pass and went down and scored.
“The next dead ball he tells me, ‘Dan, you know you’re better than that. I know exactly what you’re going to do. You’re better than that.’ I looked at him and said, ‘You’re right, you’re right.’ ”
Bryant and eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, died Sunday morning in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California.
Several former Zags, including Adam Morrison, Ronny Turiaf, Robert Sacre and Elias Harris, were teammates at one time with Bryant. Morrison was in attendance for Bryant’s final game on April 13, 2016, when the 18-time NBA All-Star scored 60 points against Utah.
“Greatest competitor I’ve had the honor to play with,” Morrison posted on Instagram. “Warrior, savant, friend. Always stuck up for me. Gone too soon.”
Bryant was on hand to give every Zag on the 2016-17 team a pair of his iconic shoes during the Final Four and later posed for pictures with the players.
“The reaction from our team, I’ll never forget,” GU head coach Mark Few told KHQ on Sunday, recalling the experience at the Final Four. “They were just starstruck and in awe. He delivered a great message, and every time I met him I just walked away impressed.”
Dozens of former Zags took to social media to pay tribute to one of the NBA’s all-time greats.
“Thank you for changing my life … inspiring me beyond imagination,” Nigel Williams-Goss, that Final Four team’s point guard, wrote in an Instagram post. “I’m living out a dream to this day, and I owe a lot of that to you. Legends never die. Period.”
“A sincere RIP to someone who is the reason SO many of us even dribble a ball,” former GU guard Josh Perkins wrote. “You will ALWAYS be missed and greatly appreciated!”
“Blessed to compete against one of the greatest to ever compete,” former Zag Kelly Olynyk wrote. “So sad hearing the tragic news. Prayers for everyone involved.”
“You were my hero, and my inspiration,” tweeted Seattle Mariners pitcher and former Zag Marco Gonzales. “I always tried to compete like you, before starts I would sit and watch your highlights just to get into Mamba mode. You meant so much to me, and to everyone. Your energy and spirit will live on forever, rest easy.”
Bryant called Turiaf one of four teammates he grew closest to during his 20-year career.
“I’m so thankful to have shared the first three years of my career alongside him and getting to know him a little bit better off the court, and kind of seeing a different side of him,” Turiaf said in a 2018 Locked on Lakers podcast, sharing a story from a road trip in Indiana when his phone rang in the early morning hours.
“I hear, ‘Lobby, five minutes,’ ” Turiaf said. “I’m like ‘Uggghhhh. Okay bro, okay.’ We went to Steak and Shake or whatever to have a milkshake, to just talk about the game plan and life for, like, 30 or 40 minutes. That was fun, we definitely shared a lot of fun over the years playing.”
On March 16, 2007, Bryant poured in 65 points in a game against Portland in Dickau’s second stint with the Trail Blazers.
“There was literally nothing we could do to stop him,” Dickau said. “I had a couple of plays on him and it was, ‘What do you do?’ ”
Bryant’s work ethic was legendary, and he didn’t have much patience for teammates who didn’t share his passion for the game.
“I remember talking to Adam about it,” Dickau said. “If you didn’t bring it, (Bryant) could be hard to you, but they got along so well because Adam didn’t back down from anybody, so they became close friends.”
Dickau is the same age (41) as Bryant, but Bryant graduated a year earlier from high school and went straight to the NBA in 1996.
“We grew up watching Michael Jordan, that was the guy in that time period,” Dickau said. “Kobe became that guy to LeBron’s generation, and to the current guys in the NBA alongside of LeBron when he became established.
“Guys wanted to compete against him, match up their skills against him, be critiqued and praised by him.”
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