The Black Mamba is one of the most venomous snakes in the world whose aggressive and agile nature make it incredibly dangerous and deadly. That’s why Kobe Bryant decided to give himself the nickname “Black Mamba” after discovering the animal while watching Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill because he wanted his game on the floor to reflect the poisonous snake.
Kobe Bryant is an NBA legend whose influence on the game will be felt for generations. But to get a seat at the all-time greats' table, Kobe's maniacal desire to win often made him one of the NBA’s biggest bullies. Much like the black mamba, Kobe has a venom inside of him that made him a force to be reckoned with on the floor but it was known to poison his relationships with teammates and around the league.
These crazy stories of torment won’t keep you from shouting, “Kobe!” every time you shoot a fadeaway, but these players will certainly look at you sideways for idolizing their tormentor. Here are 15 NBA players who were bullied by Kobe Bryant.
15 Jeremy Lin
In the summer of 2014, the Houston Rockets traded Jeremy Lin with a first and second round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft to the Los Angeles for the rights to Sergei Lishouk. The Rockets were clearing cap space in hopes of signing Chris Bosh. That didn’t work out and neither did Lin’s stint with the Lakers.
The team started 5-15 and coach Byron Scott moved Lin to the bench, giving Lin’s starting spot to Ronnie Price and later Jordan Clarkson. Lin described the demotion as “one of the toughest situations I’ve been in.” Teammate Kobe Bryant only compounded the problem. During a scrimmage, whenever Lin had the ball, Bryant would yell at the point guard, “This m-----f----- don't got s---. He ain't got s--- right now. Shoot! Shoot!"
Humiliating your teammates in practice probably isn’t the best way to get them out of a slump…
14 Matt Barnes
The year is 2011. The Lakers are playing the Magic in Orlando. In the third quarter, Barnes and Bryant get tangled up under the hoop trying to grab a rebound. They push and exchange words, resulting in a double-technical. Bryant and Barnes continue jawing. The ball goes out of bounds off one of the Laker players under L.A.’s hoop.
Matt Barnes goes to inbound the ball and Kobe is “guarding” him (to put it generously). The ref hands the ball to Barnes who immediately shoves the ball a hair away from Kobe’s face in an attempt to shake him. And while any normal person would probably flinch, Bryant didn’t even blink. He just continued to stare at Barnes, waiting for him get on with the inbound already.
Barnes’s feeble attempt to bully Kobe was met with psychological warfare so intense only a name who chose to name himself after a dangerous snake could partake in it.
13 Kyrie Irving
In 2012, a brash, 20-year-old Kyrie Irving challenged Kobe Bryant to a one-on-one duel during a Team USA training camp in Las Vegas.
Irving was dead-set on earning his idol’s respect, but Kobe wasn’t having it. Even when Kyrie Irving wagered 50K, Bryant never took the challenge seriously. Rather than accept, Bryant dismissed Irving by saying he was the same size as Bow Wow.
He also said to Irving, “You got to be able to dribble the ball if you’re going to score.” Kyrie’s always been known for his super smooth handles but Kobe deflated any confidence Kyrie had in his dribbling ability by not even acknowledging it.
12 Stephen Curry
Before Stephen Curry took over the NBA with his superhuman range, he was just another rookie trying to make a name for himself. In 2010, Kobe was the defending champion and still at his peak.
The baby-faced assassin underestimated his opponent and took a crack at the veteran in the final minute of a three-point game. In an attempt to rattle Bryant, Curry asked if he was nervous about his impending free throws. Kobe responded only with a glare. A glare that said, “Who does this rook think he is that he can talk to me?”
Naturally, Kobe drained the free throws and the stare lives on in Curry’s memory like a LeBron James block.
11 Nick Young
In his last few seasons with the Lakers, Kobe Bryant rarely practiced with the team. He told reporters that his body just wouldn’t allow him to practice regularly, which likely delighted teammates. Because on those rare occasions when Bryant would practice, he would dog his teammates, especially Nick Young.
Nick Young had to guard Kobe whenever he did practice and during the scrimmage, Bryant would shout at Young, “Nobody in the world can guard me one-on-one. You’re going exactly where I want you to go. Later Bryant said, "You m-----f------ are soft like Charmin in this m-----f-----. God damn, is this the type of s--- that's going on in these practices? Now I see why we've lost 20 f---ing games. We're soft like Charmin. We're soft like s—."
In Kobe’s last season, Young allegedly asked Kobe to sign his shoes, a pair of adidas. But since Kobe is a Nike man, he threw Young’s adidas in the trash and told him to get some Nikes.
10 Jalen Rose (And The 2006 Toronto Raptors)
In 2006, the Lakers were in Toronto to play the Raptors and Raps head coach Sam Mitchell had a rather interesting strategy for containing Kobe Bryant: shut down every other Laker and let Bryant try to beat his team one-on-one.
An interesting idea, one that failed miserably. Kobe, of course, scored 81-points that night, the second most in an NBA game ever only behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100.
To this day, players on the Raptors are still humiliated by the performance and former head coach Sam Mitchell is super salty. Last season when the then-Timberwolves coach was asked about facing Kobe one last time and he said, “Every team has good players.” Reporters then tried a follow-up question about Kobe’s 81-point performance to which Mitchell replied, “Can y’all ask me something [else]? I think I’ve answered that question for the last five years enough.”
As Sam Mitchell confirms, the best bullies never let you forget.
9 Steve Nash
What happened between Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash? It’s no secret that the Big 3 of Bryant, Nash and Dwight Howard was the most dysfunctional grouping of stars in recent memory.
In the documentary about Kobe Bryant titled Kobe Bryant’s Muse, director Gotham Chopra asked teammates to describe Kobe in 3 words. As you might expect, many players who rode his coattails to championships found nice things to say about the Black Mamba. However, when it came to Steve Nash, he said something most of Kobe’s peers may agree with. After thinking for a moment, Nash answered, slowly, in three beats, “Mother. F*cking. A**hole.”
Because Steve Nash is a polite Canadian, we’ll likely never hear any specific details of the two-time MVP getting bullied by Kobe, but rest assured there are some dark Kobe secrets behind those baby blue eyes.
8 Chucky Atkins
In March 2005, reporters asked then-Laker Chucky Atkins about what offseason moves could be made to improve the free-falling Lakers. Atkins replied, “I ain’t the GM of this team. Kobe’s the GM of this team. Ask Kobe. You've been watching this [stuff] all year. You've been watching it and I've been playing it.”
Bryant constantly criticized Atkins’ defensive play and despite playing a career-high in minutes and averaging a career-high in points with the Lakers, Atkins was shipped out of SoCal during the offseason.
To make matters worse, Bryant acted like everything was cool between them, “He’ll just work through it. He’ll be fine. That’s my boy, so I’ll look out for him, make sure he stays confident, make sure he stays aggressive.” Is there anything worse then when your bully pretends to be your friend?
7 Samaki Walker
Back in 2002, Kobe Bryant allegedly punched former teammate Samaki Walker in the face over $100.
Walker told the story on CBS Radio’s Brown and Scoop, saying that Kobe had won a half-court shot game the team often played, where everyone throws a hundred dollar bill in the pot and the first person to hit the half-court shot collects the winnings.
Walker was confronted by Kobe on the team bus and hit him up for the cash. When Walker told Bryant he’d pay him later, Kobe popped him. “It was a sucker punch. Right to the face. Out of nowhere. I’m sitting down on the bus and I said this man is crazy.” Eventually, Shaq’s bodyguard, Jerome, got Kobe to apologize, but sucker punching a teammate over $100 is damage done.
6 Slava Medvedenko
Who? We don’t blame you, Kobe doesn’t remember him either. Or at least he says he does but can't pronounce his name...
When Kobe Bryant sat down with Jemele Hill of ESPN for BET’s Genius Talks series, an audience member asked Bryant if he had ever made a teammate cry. Kobe quickly acknowledged that he had, and then told a story about a young European player he once made cry:
"I have, I have made somebody cry before...It was a player you guys won't even remember if I said what his name was. I can't even pronounce his name. It was like some European kid. I don't know. But he was really, really bad. I said, 'You know, dude, you might want to reconsider what your life purpose is. Maybe it's not this.' I was like twenty-something. I don't know. I was really young.”
Slava Medvedenko joined the Lakers as a 21-year-old in 2000 when Kobe was 22 and played in just seven games his rookie year and only started more than ten games in a season once in his seven-year career. After those seven years, he may have finally taken Kobe’s advice.
5 Dwight Howard
The minute Dwight Howard landed in L.A., Kobe Bryant was putting pressure on the star center, questioning his toughness and urging Howard to come back and play through an injury.
Howard spoke to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan and recalled, "Kobe put some pressure on me. He said something like, 'We don't have time for Dwight to be hurt.' The media is asking me, 'Did you talk to Kobe about your injuries?' I said, 'I didn't realize I was supposed to check with another player about my health.’”
After Howard left for Houston, Kobe repeatedly called Howard soft and later attributed their failed partnership to Dwight being unable to deal with someone whose nature is combative. In other words, Dwight couldn’t handle being bullied.
4 Andrew Bynum
The Kobe Bryant-Andrew Bynum could have been great. And they were, winning the West three times and having two championships to show for it. However, when Andrew Bynum was starting to emerge as the Lakers best big, leap-frogging Pau Gasol on the depth chart, Bryant remained unconvinced.
Rather than defer to the youthful center, Bryant started to take Bynum’s shots. Five Lakers rotation players shot more frequently than Bynum per minute, and Bynum barely edged two more.
Before this, fans caught Kobe on the street and asked him about the Lakers’ reported refusal to part with the 19-year-old Bynum in a trade for Jason Kidd. Bryant said, “Are you kidding me? Ship [Bynum’s] ass up!” A superstar throwing a rookie under the bus is not a good look, even for an all-time great.
3 Kwame Brown
In 2011, Kobe Bryant dropped by a psychology class at the University of California-Santa Barbara and used the opportunity to share a story about playing with Kwame Brown.
He said, “So I’m surrounded by these players, Detroit players, and Kwame is under the basket, all by himself. Literally, like all by himself. So I pass him the ball, he bobbled it and it goes out of bounds. So we go back to the timeout and I’m [upset], right? He goes, ‘I was wide open.’ ‘Yeah, I know.’ This is how I’m talking to him, like, during the game. I said, ‘You’re going to be open again, Kwame, because Rasheed is just totally ignoring you.’ He said, ‘Well, if I’m open don’t throw it to me.’ I was like, ‘Huh?’ He said, ‘Don’t throw it to me.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ He said, well, ‘I’m nervous. If I catch it and they foul me, I won’t make the free throws.’ I said, ‘Hell no!’ I go to Phil [Jackson], I say, ‘Hey Phil, take him out of the game.’ He’s like, ‘Nah, let him figure it out.’ So, we lose the game, I go the locker room, I’m steaming. Steaming. I’m furious. Then, finally I get a call, they said, ‘You know what, we got something that’s happening with Pau.’ I was like, ‘Alright. Cool.’…That’s what I had to deal with the whole year.”
Kwame Brown’s confidence was dead on arrival thanks to Michael Jordan’s bullying, but being teammates with Kobe certainly didn’t help.
2 Smush Parker
Smush Parker was Kobe Bryant’s favorite whipping boy. Bryant told Janis Carr from the Orange County Register in 2012, “I almost won an MVP with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown on my team. I was shooting 45 times a game. What was I supposed to do? Pass it to Chris Mihm or Kwame Brown?” Bryant continued by calling Parker, “the worst. He shouldn’t have been in the NBA but we were too cheap to pay for a point guard. So we let him walk on.”
Ouch. And that’s not just Kobe being mean for reminiscence’s sake. He let Smush know he wasn’t worthy of being in the Mamba’s presence all the time.
According to Parker, “He told me one day at practice — I tried to talk to him outside of basketball about football. And he looked at me in practice and was dead serious and said, 'You can’t talk to me. You need more accolades under your belt before you come talk to me.’”
No wonder Parker only played 28 games the following season.
1 Shaquille O’Neal
You can decide whether or not this counts as bullying or whether it’s just a case of being a rat.
In 2003, Kobe Bryant was implicated in a sexual assault case in Boulder, Colorado. Irrespective of the case’s outcome, we know for sure that Kobe, at the very least, cheated on his wife. His defense for that indiscretion amounted to selling out Shaquille O’Neal for doing it first. He also accused the big man of showing up to camp out of shape and exaggerating the amount of rest he needed during the offseason.
The very public feud resulted in the dismantling of one of the best duos to ever play in the NBA with Shaq getting moved to Miami and Bryant staying in Los Angeles.