Kobe Bryant is easily one of the most admired basketball players of the previous generation. As he retired from the game in 2016, there are many modern players that got a chance to play against Kobe and learn from him while he was still around. Another generation of players could have learned from the mentor Kobe if he hadn't been taken away from us in January 2020.
Kyrie Irving would spend a lot of time with Kobe Bryant, taking advice from the Laker great, who Kyrie has referred to as a mentor. In his recent appearance on 'Uninterrupted', Irving responded to Idris Elba asking him about players that pushed him to always do better by talking about Kobe and referring to him as the greatest of all time in his book.
"Kobe for sure was number one on my list. Just because I had a student-teacher relationship with him. I only had access to his highlights for 10-12 years. When I got to the league to challenge him, I was like 'no, this is my moment. I am going at arguably the greatest of all time in my book.'"
Kobe Bryant And The Current Players He Had Friendships With
Out of the current crop of players in the NBA today, Kyrie Irving is arguably the person who had the closest bond with Kobe. Young players like Jayson Tatum and Devin Booker forged good relationships with Kobe, but Kyrie had the opportunity to compete against and blossom in front of Kobe during the latter half of his career.
LeBron James and Kobe had a little brother-big brother relationship after the two became close at the 2008 US Olympics. Bryant even gave advice to LeBron's current co-star Anthony Davis in the 2012 Olympics. Luka Doncic could have built a relationship with Bryant, as Kobe learned Slovenian to trash-talk Luka during his sophomore season.
There are so many players that Kobe has impacted in a profound way. Kyrie calling him the GOAT shows the high regard he holds for him. Nobody would argue with what Kyrie said because of the respect everyone has for Bryant, and the 5-time champion can be regarded as the GOAT by whoever chooses to do so.