With all the controversy over Caitlyn Jenner getting the Arthur Ashe award at the ESPYs ... she still has major support from one of the biggest athletes on the planet -- Kobe Bryant.
Bryant was leaving A.O.C. restaurant in Los Angeles when we asked how he felt about Caitlyn.
"I think people have to be comfortable being themselves," Bryant says ... "Doesn't matter what walk of life you're in man, you gotta be comfortable being you."
You gotta watch the clip ... Kobe also talks about the epic emoji battle last week -- and admits he lost the war to TWO legends.
But the best of the clip is the end ... when our photog runs out of steam and Kobe calls him out for it -- pretty hilarious stuff.
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