Kobe Bryant is the most polarizing figure in the NBA. New England coach Bill Belichick isn’t on top of that list for the NFL, but he’s on it. Both are respected, even by those who revile them, and both are considered cold blooded.

And they are friends. Of course they are.

Kobe Bryant was telling the story to Jackie MacMullan of ESPNBoston.com, leading up to the Lakers game in Boston Thursday night, and the fine folks at the mothership blog ProFootballTalk saw it and wrote it up.

Kobe said the relationship started near the end of the 2008 NBA finals, when the Celtics routed the Lakers in the deciding Game 6.

“I’m sitting there on the bench, just beside myself, burning with frustration, and I look over and Bill Belichick is walking toward me,” Kobe recalled. “I had never met him. Never spoken to him. He had courtside seats across from our bench, and with 20 seconds left in the game, he came over and said, ‘Don’t you worry about this. I know what you are going through. We just lost a tough one ourselves [to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII]. Just bounce back. Be ready next year.’

“He didn’t have to say that. The clock was winding down, we were getting ready to walk off. I thought it was really cool. Respect across our professions.”