Kobe Bryant was a student of the game. He wanted to learn as much as possible about basketball, asking things about the people who came before him, adopting some of their moves, and even questioning how some old players were so dominant during their era.
Kobe, just like many people around the world, was skeptical about Larry Bird's dominance during the 80s, and he had to ask for references to learn how great the Boston Celtics legend was despite not looking as athletic as other players from his era.
Bryant was very curious about it and he took the chance to ask some of his veterans during his first years on the Lakers to get to know more about Larry and what made him so special. The Black Mamba couldn't believe that Bird was really that tough to defend.
During an old interview, the player explained how he perceived Bird during his playing days.
"I would always sit down and ask them [his vets on the Lakers] questions about certain games I watched growing up. ‘What actually happened there?’, ‘What did you feel there, why?’. ‘Bird tough to defend? Why?’, because he looks slow as sh*t to me. I’m missing something so tell me what I’m missing.”
Larry himself admitted he wasn't the most athletic player of all, but he was smart and always tried to be one or two steps ahead of his rivals. He was also a good shooter and that gave him an advantage in an era where the 3-pointers weren't as important as they are right now.
Further, he was a vicious trash talker and used those mind games to win those duels. Perhaps he wasn't as athletic as Kobe, but Larry learned how to impact the game in different ways. He's one of the greatest players of all time thanks to his genius, and Kobe must have learned that.