As the tributes and goodbyes pile up in anticipation for Kobe Bryant’s final game on Wednesday night, former teammates and players are taking the time to remember the Black Mamba and detail some of his behind-the-scenes actions.
The Players’ Tribune spoke with former Lakers Horace Grant, Brian Shaw, Ron Harper and Devean George about memories they had of Bryant, and one particular aspect of his 20-year career that stood out was his competitiveness. Whether it was in practice or on the court, Bryant was remembered as one of the fiercest competitors to ever step foot on the hardwood. One story in particular was about former teammate Isaiah “J.R.” Rider, who challenged Kobe to a game of one-on-one.
“J.R. would [expletive]-talk Kobe,” Grant said in the article. “Every practice, it was MF this, MF that. He would say to Kobe, ‘Get your [expletive] back in the kitchen.'”
After several battles with the Lakers prior to joining their team, players respected his game. But challenging the five-time champion Bryant was the wrong thing to do. Kobe, according to their stories, beat Rider so badly that Rider wanted to “fight everybody in the gym” once the game finished.
“You have to understand, this was a guy who put up numbers in the league,” George reminisced. “This wasn’t a benchwarmer. J.R. was a super-talented player. But Kobe got into some kind of zone and just went crazy.”
This isn’t really a surprise to anyone. The players also talked about Bryant waking up to take shots at 5 a.m., hit the weight room, and workout before practice even began, and how he studied everything Michael Jordan did during the course of his career. No reason many argue that he’s the closest thing we’ll ever witness to Jordan.
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