For 20 years, Kobe Bryant was one of the best players in the NBA. Alright, so maybe it was closer to 17 years, but he played for 20. Bryant spent his entire career with the Lakers, winning five NBA Championships in the process and an MVP Award in 2008. Along the way, Bryant played both with and against a ton of players, and would become one of the most hated NBA players of his generation.
Kobe Bryant once said in an interview with GQ Magazine that he doesn’t have any real friends, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting at least a little close with some people around the league. Just don’t expect to come over to his house for dinner anytime soon (just ask one of the guys on our list). It’s not even just in the league, there are people that both love and hate Kobe outside that have gotten to meet him.
With that said, who are people that love Kobe despite his reputation to not let people into his life and rub folks the wrong way? Here are eight people that hate Kobe Bryant, and eight that hate him, whether it be as a person or as a player.
16 Hates: Karl Malone
It’s usually better to deliver the bad news first, so we’ll start with someone that doesn’t like Kobe Bryant and that’s Karl Malone. These two started to beef back in 2004, but nobody was quite sure why. That was until Bryant’s agent came out to the public and said that Malone made “several inappropriate comments” to Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife. Not only that, but it was during a game.
Kobe’s agent said that the player felt “very hurt and betrayed” by what Malone said. The two had apparently been friends beforehand, so what did Malone say? Reportedly, he was wearing cowboy boots, leading Vanessa to ask what he was “hunting.” Malone responded, “I’m hunting for little Mexican girls.” The two have said they’re on better terms now, but we’re not buying it.
15 Loves: Pau Gasol
Throughout his career, Bryant didn’t make a lot of friends and we’ve already met one player that he spent a season with and didn’t get along with. Now we move on to a teammate he did get along with and it was very recently. Spanish big man Pau Gasol and Bryant were pretty tight in their time together with the Lakers and the two embraced before playing each other in Kobe’s final season when Gasol was with the Bulls.
Gasol told Bryant that “Kobe, I want to play with you forever, but what management did to me is just disrespectful.” Bryant would even go as far to say that Gasol was his “brother” and the two even bought a horse together, and it actually had some success back in 2012 before being sold to Drew Brees.
14 Hates: Reggie Miller
Longtime Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller hated Kobe Bryant throughout his entire career, but not with the personal grudge like some of the other people on the list have. Miller has said in recent years that he always had a complicated relationship with Bryant, especially when the two would square off in the occasional matchup.
The two got into a scuffle back in 2002, with Bryant throwing a punch. More than a decade later, Miller had some words of advice for Bryant, telling him to “stop being so sensitive.” Miller said in 2016 that he doesn’t really hate him on a personal level, saying that “I love him, I hate him and I respect him.” Miller might like him if it weren’t for 2000 when the Pacers couldn’t win the championship.
13 Loves: Lamar Odom
If there is one thing that Lamar Odom has needed in the past couple of years, it’s a good friend. In October 2015, Odom (after his split with reality star Khloe Kardashian) was hospitalized after a night of drugs and prostitutes in Pahrump, Nevada. Thankfully, Bryant was playing at Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas, which was where Odom was hospitalized. Bryant left the arena instead of playing in the exhibition game.
Not only that, but the Lakers had to wait for Bryant to get back from visiting his friend in the hospital, delaying their short flight back to Los Angeles for two hours (almost long enough to drive between the two cities that late at night). Apparently, Bryant has been a big help for Odom now that their playing careers for over, trying to get his pal sober.
12 Hates: Jason Whitlock
Pretty much every sports reporter has something to say about Kobe Bryant and not all of it has been positive. That would change when Bryant got to his final NBA game in April 2016 as most reporters were looking back on his career with great nostalgia. One reporter that didn’t follow the trend, though, was Jason Whitlock. Before Bryant’s final game, he would call Kobe “The most fraudulent superstar celebrity athlete.”
Whitlock would go on to say that Bryant imitated the great Michael Jordan, calling Bryant’s attitude full of “narcissism and selfishness” and that he “destroyed the franchise.” While most people were looking forward to Bryant’s last game, Whitlock would say that the event was a load of “hot garbage.” Whitlock’s rant was met with a lot of backlash and we all tuned into Bryant’s last game anyway.
11 Loves: Caron Butler
Throughout his 20 seasons in the NBA, Kobe Bryant fondly reflected on who his favorite teammates were. Normally, a player with a career that long would run out of time listing all of the people he enjoyed playing with. That was not the case for Bryant, whose list could be counted on one hand. Among the players on that list wasn’t an all-time great, but someone close to Bryant; Caron Butler.
Bryant said that Butler was one of his favorites and was even willing to go over to Butler’s house for a BBQ. That doesn’t sound like a big deal to the normal man, but Bryant is no normal man. Butler says that he considers Bryant his brother and that they “hit it off really well” from the get go because Bryant likes “guys that shoot straight from the hip.”
10 Hates: Ray Allen
For the beef between Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant, you have to go all the way back to 2004 when Allen was asked about Bryant being the man in Los Angeles with Shaquille O’Neal being sent to Miami. Allen said that “He’s going to be very selfish. And he feels like he needs to show this league and the people in this country that he is better without Shaq.” He went on to say that Kobe needed several good players around him to win a title.
Eventually, Bryant would tell Allen that “I’m going to bus your ass” and clowned Allen when asked about their confrontation by the press. Years after the two got into it for the first time, they still weren’t burying the hatchet. However, when Kobe retired, Allen did pay tribute to Kobe, saying that they had some epic battles. Maybe the beef is squashed after all?
9 Loves: Serena Williams
We have seen plenty of basketball players on the list so far, and even a sports reporter, but what about those in different sports? Much like Bryant, Serena Williams is a legend in her sport, though you would never really put the two together as being friends. Apparently, Williams and Bryant have been pals for quite some time and have even worked together in the fashion world.
Williams had a shoe that was based off of Kobe Bryant’s, with Nike designer Aaron Cooper saying that “Serena is friends with Kobe and she obviously respects his capabilities on the court.” Williams would also admit that she was in tears during Kobe’s final game and that she considers him to be the greatest of all time. Or quite simply, the GOAT.
8 Hates: Scot Pollard
Now, if you’re a casual NBA fan or you haven’t been watching the sport since 2008, you might be wondering just who Scot Pollard is and it’s a valid question. Pollard was a former first round pick from Kansas that spent more than a decade in the league playing with five different teams. Pollard won a title as a bench player with Boston in his final season and he did not like Kobe Bryant.
Pollard was being interviewed, and was asked about Kobe. Pollard responded by saying that “Personally, I never really liked Kobe. I didn’t like the way he carried himself.” He did admit that Bryant was a great player and that he would sign him if he were a general manager, but he did say that “I wouldn’t want to play with him. I think he made the team about him as opposed to making the team about winning.”
7 Loves: Rip Hamilton
Rip Hamilton and Kobe Bryant would have some memorable duels on the court, most notably in 2004 when Hamilton’s Pistons defeated Bryant and the Lakers in the NBA Finals. Though they were fierce competitors when they were going head to head (or even on the same team before the NBA), they remained longtime friends. Both grew up in Philadelphia suburbs and stuck together through their youth careers.
While Kobe’s confidence would rub some people the wrong way, Bryant’s attitude would earn Hamilton’s respect. Hamilton would say that Kobe “is one of the best dudes I know. To this day. But I also understand the process to get where you want to get to.” The two understood everything about each other and it carried into a lifelong friendship.
6 Hates: Shelley Smith
We did see one sports reporter earlier in the form of Jason Whitlock that doesn’t like Kobe Bryant, but here’s a surprising entrant. Shelley Smith had been reporting for the NBA for quite a long time and was unfortunately diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2014. By April of the next year, Smith had returned to work and rightfully received a ton of praise from fans and athletes alike for her battle.
One person that reached out was Bryant, but Smith wasn’t buying it. Smith said that she had known Bryant for 10 years and he was all of a sudden being nice, claiming that “I am not sure if it’s because I had cancer or...he’s being nice to everybody right now because he wants to go out being beloved.” What caused the beef in the first place? If you recall, Smith reported on Kobe’s rape trial many years ago and Bryant said that he would never talk to her again.
5 Loves: Rajon Rondo
If there is one entrant on the list so far that has been more surprising than Serena Williams, it has to be Rajon Rondo. Rondo has a reputation of being hard to play with and that was the same reputation that Bryant had throughout his career. Strangely enough, that’s where the two found a fondness for each other. Rondo has said that “I don’t have a lot of friends. I’m just friends with a lot of a**holes.”
Nobody really knew that the two were friends until they were spotted eating breakfast together, leading some to think that they would become teammates. That would never happen and it’s probably for the best. The two are a perfect match for each other off the court, but playing for the same team would be an entirely different story.
4 Hates: Smush Parker
If there is one name that you probably forgot about on this list, but are not surprised in the slightest now that you’re seeing it, it has to be Smush Parker. Parker and Bryant were teammates in Los Angeles from 2005 to 2007 and their relationship could be classified as rocky at best. Parker admitted that there were times that Bryant had an open look, but chose not to pass him the ball.
Bryant would comment on Parker years later, saying that Parker “shouldn’t have been in the NBA, but (the Lakers) were too cheap to pay for a point guard.” Parker said it was funny that Bryant was still talking about him and would go on to call him a bad teammate. Parker also revealed that Bryant would not allow the guard to talk to him in practice, just making things that much worse.
3 Loves: Lionel Messi
Just like Serena Williams, Lionel Messi is another athlete at the top of his sport that has a fondness for Kobe Bryant. Messi was one of the many athletes to take part in a tribute to Bryant upon his 2016 retirement and the two actually met through another soccer player, Ronaldinho. The two would hit it off and even appear in advertisements with each other.
Bryant was asked about his friendship with Messi, saying that they're the same. Bryant’s ability to speak Spanish made it easier for the two to become pals, saying that “As people, in the way that we speak, we are very different - he’s a very reserved person - but we are the same in that love that we feel for our sports.” When asked if talent was also something they shared in comment, Bryant agreed.
2 Hates: Master P
We’ve had athletes and other people involved in the world of sports so far on the list, so let’s cap it off with a couple of people in the music industry. The first is someone that despises Bryant, No Limits Record founder Master P. Upon the hospitalization of Lamar Odom (and Bryant visiting him), Master P had some choice words for the Lakers star.
Master P said that Bryant didn’t really care about Odom and was just trying to draw sympathy in his final season by visiting him conveniently in a hospital in the same city he was playing a meaningless game in. “If Kobe was his friend,” Master P said. “Kobe, like, owns the team. He could’ve got the man back on the team...that’s all he wanted.” In other words, Master P says that Kobe turned his back on Odom until it was almost too late.
1 Loves: Kanye West
Kobe Bryant has a reputation of loving himself more than anybody else, but that is nothing compared to our final entrant on the list, rapper Kanye West. West was one of the many rappers that paid homage to Bryant during his final game in 2016, even showing up to courtside wearing a shirt that says “I Feel Like Kobe.” West seemed like he was having the time of his life during the game and it only got better afterward.
West was one of the celebrities that was welcomed into the locker room and he looked like he had just met his idol (without looking in a mirror). If you know anything about West, it’s that he never smiles when he knows there is a camera around. That night, he didn’t care. So, while they might not be hanging out all of the time, it’s clear that West loves him some Kobe.
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