Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher entered the NBA together in 1996 and won five world championships side-by-side with the Los Angeles Lakers.
They separated when Fisher was dealt at this season's trade deadline and eventually signed as a free agent with the Thunder, but both agree they remain “brothers.”
“You compete with your brother,” Bryant told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “Somebody has got to win, you rather it be you. Somebody has got to have bragging rights in the summer time. In terms of what he brings to the team, his experience, his leadership, I don't really know what their locker room dynamics are over there but with us, he was a true inspiration for the entire ballclub.”
The Lakers and Thunder meet Monday at 8:30 p.m. at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Game 1 of their second-round Western Conference playoff series.
Fisher flashed a smile when Bryant's description as brothers was mentioned.
“(I feel the) same way,” Fisher said after Sunday's practice, “but for those of you that have brothers, you know what that means. I have no doubt that's how he meant it, that it's going to be like facing your brother, but your brother oftentimes was the recipient of some of the hardest blows you ever delivered. I'm sure he's planning to deliver quite a few and I'll be ready to deliver some as well and it's going to be fun to just have to compete against the best.”
The Charlotte Hornets made Bryant the 13th player selected in the 1996 draft and traded him to the Lakers two weeks later for center Vlade Divac. The Lakers drafted Fisher 24th overall that same year out Arkansas- Little Rock.
Bryant has played for no one but the Lakers while Fisher has played 13½ of his 16 seasons with the Lakers (1996-2004; 2007-12). They are the active leaders in championship rings and now have a chance to break the tie.
Asked if he ever thought about taking the lead over Bryant after signing with the Thunder on March 21, Fisher said: “I don't know if I thought much about breaking the tie between the two if us, but just instantly thinking about the opportunity to win a championship.
“It's not about keeping count, per se. But there's no question that once the opportunity presented itself to join this particular team (OKC) at the point I did this season, thoughts immediately went to how good we could possibly be – that we were good enough to win right now. We didn't have to wait until next year or some random time in the future. Those are where my thoughts still lie. That's how I will try to continue to focus as we go forward.”
One more championship ring will move either Bryant or Fisher past the halfway mark to Bill Russell's record 11 championships.
The top six players all played for the Boston Celtics from 1957-76 (see below).
MOST NBA TITLES
11 -- Bill Russell (Boston)
10 – Sam Jones (Boston)
8 – John Havlicek (Boston); Tom Heinsohn (Boston); K.C. Jones (Boston); Tom Sanders (Boston)
7 – Robert Horry (Houston; LA Lakers; San Antonio); Frank Ramsey (Boston)
6 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Milwaukee; LA Lakers); Bob Cousy (Boston); Michael Jordan (Chicago); Jim Loscutoff (Boston); Scottie Pippen (Chicago)
5 – Magic Johnson (LA Lakers); Kobe Bryant (LA Lakers); Derek Fisher (LA Lakers); Michael Cooper (LA Lakers); Ron Harper (Chicago; LA Lakers); Steve Kerr (Chicago; San Antonio); Slater Martin (Minneapolis; St. Louis); George Mikan (Minneapolis); Don Nelson (Boston); Jim Pollard (Minneapolis); Dennis Rodman (Detroit; Chicago); Larry Siegfried (Boston)