Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James said retiring idol Kobe Bryant helped take his game to the next level.
Bryant, 37, will farewell basketball at the end of his 20th and final NBA season after announcing his retirement on Sunday.
Four-time MVP James has achieved almost everything in the league, winning two NBA championships and earning 11 All-Star appearances, and the former number one pick thanked Bryant - ranked third in the all-time scoring list - for motivating him to the top.
"In high school I wore a nappy-ass Afro because of Kobe Bryant. Because he wore it," James said on Tuesday.
"I wanted to be just like him, man. And I always said my inspiration came from [Michael] Jordan, but I always thought Jordan was so out of this world that I could never get there. Kobe was someone that I just always kind of wanted to be like and play like.
"And then, just being a competitor. He took me to that next level, and understanding how important competition is and just have a willingness to never die.
"You may lose a game, but you're always going to win every battle, man, and win the war, things of that nature. You get that all from Kobe, just competing against him every year."
Bryant - a two-time Olympic Games gold medallist - is set to depart the sport with five NBA rings and 17 All-Star selections.
The 2008 MVP, who posted 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006 to be only second to Wilt Chamberlain (100) in the history books, also led the league in scoring twice.
"It was someone that I always knew I had to be in the gym. I knew I had to be better because of Kobe Bryant," James added.
"I knew he was in the gym, and I knew he was working on his game. And I knew he was great. So every day that I didn't want to work out or every day I felt like I couldn't give more, I always thought of Kobe. Because I knew that he was getting better and I was like, 'Man, if you take a day off, he's going to take advantage of it. You cannot take a day off. You cannot take a day off.'
"And I used him for my motivation throughout my career because I always knew that he was working on something. So that part will be missed a little bit."