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For Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Kobe's retirement is personal

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Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Consider it a quest ... a rising star wants to meet his boyhood idol, a player who he's long modeled his game after.

"I was trying to meet him since like, sophomore year," Hollis-Jefferson told beat writers Sunday night, talking about Kobe Bryant. "I was telling my AAU coach, I was telling my college coach, they were talking about it, he’d heard of my name, he knew who I was, but it never happened. So (before Nets-Lakers) I was like, ‘all right listen, man. I’m in the NBA. You’ve got to make it happen.’"

And three weeks ago, when the Nets played the Lakers, he succeeded.

Got to pay homage to my guy Kobe #mamba x #shimreaper

A photo posted by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (@r.hollisjefferson24) on

The two shooting guards with unique first names are both from the Philly suburbs, Bryant from Lower Merion, Hollis-Jefferson from the more hardscrabble Chester.  For Rondae, the night was doubly special. It was the first time he started an NBA game.  Sunday night, after Bryant announced his retirement, he recounted what they talked about.

"It was great to be in his presence, to hear from him, to tell me that he’s watching, he’s noticing, (saying) ‘keep working hard.’ It means the world. It gives you a sense of hope that you can be something special. That’s all I’m trying to be, is something special."

Bryant was his hometown inspiration.  If Bryant could do it, so could he.

"He grew up so close to us, and it was just like, ‘I could do that. I could do that. Let me work on it.’ He gave so many people hope to work hard in whatever they did. And I was one of those kids that really, really took that in to doing the extra things -- the things that were necessary, the things that you thought were unnecessary. I was just a kid that felt I needed to do those things in order to get over the hump and be successful. He inspired me like no one before -- besides my mom and brother. He’s up there."

Hollis-Jefferson is unlikely to match many of Bryant's accomplishments, but he did make it to the NBA, did get to play against Bryant, did finally meet him.  That's yet more inspiration.