Los Angeles Lakers and NBA great Kobe Bryant recalled his first meeting with Lionel Messi after Ronaldinho predicted the Barcelona star would become the “greatest player who ever lived”.
Regarded as one of basketball’s greatest players, Bryant’s links to football are strong, having spent some of his childhood in Italy, and the future Hall of Famer calls himself an AC Milan fan.
But the five-time NBA champion and 2008 MVP has a strong affinity for Barca due to his friendship with Ronaldinho and admiration for Messi.
Speaking about his introduction to an emerging Messi thanks to Ronaldinho, Bryant told ESPN FC: “I think Messi must have been 18 at the time, 17 maybe.
“Ronaldinho called him over and said, ‘Kobe, I want you to meet the player who is going to be the greatest player who ever lived.”
Messi has since gone on to win five Ballon d’Or and 29 trophies at Barca, including eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns.
The 30-year-old, who married long-term partner Antonella Roccuzzo in Rosario on Friday, is also Barca’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Discussing his love for Serie A giants Milan and LaLiga powerhouse Barca, Bryant added: “I still love AC Milan – though they don’t wear my brand of choice – and FC Barcelona.
“If you cut my arm open, man, you’d see four colours; blue and [garnet], and then you’d see red and black.”
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