This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Los Angeles • Back in the training room, where, even then, Kobe Bryant always seemed to be icing something, the assistant coach found himself in frequent conversation with the superstar guard.
"Those conversations went from old movies to Paul Newman, race cars and Formula One and who knows where else," Quin Snyder, a Lakers assistant during the 2011-12 season, recalled.
Now, Snyder, the Utah Jazz coach, and Bryant, the NBA megastar who capped his 20-year career in the league Wednesday night, still share a strong bond and a mutual respect for one another.
Bryant, Snyder and another assistant coach, Ettore Messina (now on the Spurs staff) would also engage in long conversations about the minutia of the game they all love.
"All three of us are just basketball nerds," Bryant said.
"He was always anxious to see if you could come up with something that was novel or new," Snyder said of Bryant. "That was always kind of a challenge for me. I always try to run a good ATO [after timeout play] when we play him to get his attention. Even if we run it at him, I think he laughs at that."
And when the Jazz and Lakers faced off last month in Salt Lake City, Snyder was able to catch Bryant's attention with some of his play designs.
"He's brilliant," Bryant said after the Jazz's win in late March. "You watch some of the stuff he was running tonight. There was one where I had to tell him, 'That was a hell of a play.' They ran a misdirection. Ran [Rodney] Hood off a double [screen]. You thought that was the misdirection because they countered to someplace else. That was just another misdirection to bring Hood off a double the opposite way. It was a brilliant play. He's a sharp mind."
Gordon Hayward admits to being starstruck the first time he shared a court with Bryant. But by April of Hayward's rookie season, a breakout performance (22 points, six rebounds and five assists) in a one-point win over Bryant's Lakers had the Mamba singing his praises.
"I'm very, very fond of him," Bryant said in 2011. "He's a very-skilled, all-around player. I think he's going to have a very bright future in this league. He reminds me of a more talented Jeff Hornacek. Jeff couldn't put the ball on the floor as well as [Hayward] can."
Hearing that gave Hayward a boost of confidence.
"It's something I'll always remember," the Jazz forward said.
At shootaround Wednesday, Hayward said he had been anticipating Wednesday night's game since Bryant made his retirement announce last fall.
"I've had ticket requests since November," Hayward said. "This game's definitely been circled and marked on the calendar."
The Jazz forward made the smart play with his tickets, by the way, giving them to his brothers-in-law. "Gave me points with the wife, too," he said.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert did not make the trip to Los Angeles after badly rolling his ankle in the first half of Monday's loss to the Mavericks. Derrick Favors and Alec Burks also did not play because of injuries.
Wednesday's game wasn't just Bryant's retirement party. Longtime Lakers trainer Gary Vitti, a University of Utah alumnus who served early in his career as an assistant trainer with the Jazz from 1981-82, also worked his final game.