Kobe Bryant Chris Paul.

Kobe Bryant hands CP3 some personalised sneakers with a very special message

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The phrase 'Kobe Bryant's retirement tour' is sure to be wearing thin on some people by now, but in just five short days one of the greatest careers in NBA history will draw to a close.

Something of a tradition has started during this tour in amongst all of the sentiment and Black Mamba fanfare; Kobe has been dishing out signed sneakers to his favourite all-time rivals.

For a man of such legendary competitiveness, it's refreshing to see that Bryant does indeed appreciate some of his fiercest rivals now that his career is all but wound down.

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A healthy respect has developed between Kobe and the rest of the league, which has led to some monstrous cheers on the road that often outweigh the support for the side the five-time NBA champion is actually playing.

It's been an emotional time when he has faced some of his favourite stars for the final time. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Pau Gasol all exchanged memorable goodbyes with the 18-time All-Star and 20-year NBA veteran.

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However, following Bryant's final Los Angeles derby between the Lakers and the Clippers at the Staples Center on Wednesday evening, he had a special message for Chris Paul.

Bryant gifted Paul a pair of purple-and-gold Jordan 3 PEs following the Clippers' 91-81 victory with the message: "To my brother CP one of the greatest competitors of all time."

Considering Kobe is often considered the greatest competitor on the hardwood that ever lived - not named Michael Jordan- that truly is a massive compliment from the departing future Hall of Famer.

Jordan talks with Bryant

Of course, the two nearly became teammates back in 2011 when a trade had been agreed between the Lakers and Paul's team at the time, the Charlotte Bobcats - now known as the Hornets, again.

The NBA would put a stop to that deal and eventually, Paul would head to Los Angeles with the Clippers where he has become the cornerstone of their franchise and a key element in their rise as the dominant franchise in the city in recent years.

But, this isn't the first time Bryant has gifted Paul with a pair of shoes, either. Back in 2007, a 21-year-old Paul requested that Kobe donate some shoes to his charity, only to later admit he actually wanted the shoes for himself, and he ultimately kept them.

Los Angeles Lakers v New Orleans Hornets - Game Four

Maybe the competitor Paul is today can be attributed to his admiration for Kobe from an early age. Maybe the landscape in Los Angeles and the NBA as a whole would be very different had Paul inked his deal with the Lakers back in 2011.

For all the if, buts and maybes, one thing is for sure: Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul have a mutual respect.

Chris Paul
LA Clippers
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Kobe Bryant
LA Lakers

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