With a few casual words, spaced between bites of his lunch, Kobe Bryant chalked up an assist in helping modern soccer’s greatest player achieve his full potential.
It was the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Bryant, just a few days short of leading basketball’s Team USA to the gold medal, spotted some members of the Argentina men’s soccer team huddled around a table in an athletes village food court.
“Where’s Messi?” Bryant demanded. “I want to see Lionel Messi.”
Soon enough, the Los Angeles Lakers star was locked in conversation with Messi, then 21 and with the soccer world at his feet, in Spanish.
Bryant was 29 and had long since established himself as a man of the world. Messi, already a superstar in his own sport with both his national team and Spanish club Barcelona, was more shy back then than he is today, even with millions in the bank and the chance to lead Argentina to an Olympic gold medal.
The American did most of the talking. And as he left with a handshake and a wave, Bryant turned over his shoulder and uttered words Messi has carried with him since.
“You’re the man, Messi,” Bryant said. “You’re the best. You’re not just good, you’re the best.”
HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: It seems Kobe Bryant, the world's greatest basketball player, is a pretty fair judge of talent when it comes to soccer.
After all, Lionel Messi is 'the best'. The jitter-bug forward has emerged as the superstar of the 2010 World Cup, dominating for his native Argentina. Before dazzling in South Africa, he led Barcelona to glory in the Champions League tournament in 2009.
Clearly, this is Messi's time.
Of course, this is a basketball website, but HoopsVibe News always recognizes and respects talent, so click the video below to discover what Bryant was talking about.
Was Bryant right? Is Messi the best?