The 2016-17 season features a high-scoring, shot-creating, intensely-driven guard who seems to be carrying his team almost single-handedly. And, for the first time in twenty years, he is not named Kobe Bryant. With Kevin Durant gone to play for the “super team” Golden State Warriors, Russell Westbrook is filling a stat-sheet unlike ever before, averaging a career high 32 points per game as of his publication while taking over 25% of his team’s shots. Of course, Kobe Bryant once took 66% of his team’s shots in a SINGLE GAME on the way to scoring 81 points against the Toronto Raptors (bettered only in NBA history by Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game).
Indeed, when it comes for ball-hogging, the Black Mamba is the all-time king. He is also, on a related note, perhaps the most hated NBA player of all time. During his career, he was cocky, brash, arrogant, basically whatever synonym for “all around jerk” you wish to choose. He was also however, perhaps most importantly, a winner. He had five titles, only one short of MJ and two ahead, so far, of LeBron James. When people doubted he could win without Shaquille O'Neal, he won two more, with Pau Gasol as his Scottie Pippin. This contrast of winning and alienating, earned him some major love and some major hate along the way, even from his own teammates.
Here are 8 Players Who Loved Being Kobe Bryant's Teammate And 7 Who Hated It
15 Loved: Ronny Turiaf (The Surprise)
Upon his retirement, Kobe named four, and only four, players whom he had considered friends during his playing career, and the list included three former All-Stars (see below) and… Ronny Turiaf. The recently retired journeyman with a 10 year playing career admired Bryant greatly, saying , "he was always in the facility by himself, working out in the gym or practicing on the court. He was always the first one to show up. I don't know when he slept. He would call me at 1 or 2 in the morning to go over something and then be at the track by 5 a.m. He was dedicated to being the best player in the world.” It was being the recipient of those 2am phone calls, however, that set Turiaf apart. When the Lakers declined to match his four year offer from the Golden State Warriors in 2009, Bryant said “I'm sad about it. I wish we could have kept him. I love him as a person."
14 Hated: Kwame Brown (The Bust)
Kobe is not the only NBA player who disliked playing with Kwame Brown, but he is definitely the most public. “I don’t talk behind people’s back,” he told students at the University of California-Santa Barbara in 2011. He went on to recount a particularly embarrassing story for the former #1 overall draft pick. “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.’ 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.’”
Through it all, Brown, like former teammate Chris Mihm (“I was shooting 45 times a game. What was I supposed to do? Pass it to Chris Mihm or Kwame Brown?”, Kobe famously asked), has stayed quiet (they let #12 on this list do the talking.) But his lack of confidence he had playing with Kobe may say it all about how his former teammate made him feel.
13 Loved: Andrew Bynum (The Never-Quite-Up-To-Hype)
Hindsight is 20/20, and after seven seasons and winning two titles alongside Kobe Bryant, followed by health and performance issues that led to playing only 26 games more before retiring, Andrew Bynum announced that playing with #24 stunted his development. “I thought it really helped me a lot obviously at first, because he draws so much attention it's hard for guys to double team and key on you, so it helped me tremendously," Bynum said. But, he went on, ”later, I felt I was able to get the ball more and do more things with the ball, so I could definitely see how it could stunt growth.” While he was Bryant’s teammate, however, Bynum praised him for “telling me a few things, little footwork tricks and stuff like they can't stop me, giving me confidence.”
12 Hated: Smush Parker (The Spokesman)
William “Smush" Parker played two notorious seasons with Bryant in a seven year career that fell in-between Kobe’s title runs with Shaquille O’Neal and Pau Gasol. He has publicly said what perhaps many, including his teammates (see #14), have felt privately. In various interviews he called him a “bad teammate” and that playing with the Black Mamba was “overrated.” He even admitted to stopping passing Kobe the ball, looking him off instead of “kissing his feet.” He claims that he tried to have a conversation with Bryant in his first season and was told he couldn’t talk to him until he had “more accolades under my belt.” “You can’t knock the man’s legacy,” Parker said, and “you can’t knock what he’s done in basketball. His work ethic is tremendous. There’s not an ounce of hate in my blood whatsoever.” But, he went on to clarify, “what I don’t like about him is the man that he is. His personality. How he treats people. I don’t like that side of Kobe Bryant.” For his part, Kobe publicly called Smush Parker “the worst,” perhaps proving Smush’s point.
11 Loved: Antawn Jamison/Rick Fox (The Veterans)
You wouldn’t expect Kobe praise from a veteran All-Star player who spent his only season with him on the notoriously high-expectation, low-performance 2012-13 Lakers team which featured a “Big Three” including Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. But as a fifteen-year vet searching for his first championship, Antawn Jamison found himself inthralled with a “a guy who expects so much from his teammates. He pushes his teammates. After games, we’re traveling, guys are on their laptops, their iPads, watching movies, listening to music, this guy is watching film. He’s breaking down situations. I’ll be watching a movie, he’ll tape me like, ‘Come here.’ He’ll dissed plays like, ‘This is what we got to do, me and you got to get this going.’”
Interestingly, for his part Kobe looks back on another veteran All-Star player who, early in his career, helps Bryant see the value in engaging his teammates. Rick Fox, the 13 year vet who won three championships while playing with a young Bryant for seven seasons, told him that “Kobe, we just want to feel like you need us.” Years later, Bryant said “it really changed my mentality and how I kind of looked at it, and I've been working on it ever since.” For his part, Fox only needed one word to sum up his favorite thing about Kobe: “championships.”
10 Hated: Jeremy Lin (The Big Name)
“I don’t want chumps, I don’t want pushovers. If you’re a chump and a pushover, I will run over you,” Kobe Byrant said during his one year playing with his phenom teammate, Jeremy Lin. He also shouted expletives during a five-on-five drill in practice when challenging Lin, and laughed it off after, saying “I was just being myself.” While Lin never publicly spoke negatively about Bryant he did say that his following season with Charlotte Hornets “was just beautiful. It just brought back everything I thought basketball to be, and I had so much fun with it.” It doesn’t take a huge leap to understand why. While he has said he learned a lot from Kobe, Lin has also admitted that in his time in Los Angeles “I don't think I ever got to where I wanted to get to.”
9 Loved: Caron Butler (The True Friend)
While Kobe Byrant and Caron Butler also only played together for one season, in 2004-05, the first time in Kobe’s career his team failed to make the playoffs, they quickly became tight on and off the court. The timing perhaps couldn’t be better because Butler came over as one of the players included from the Miami Heat in a deal for… Shaquille O’Neal. “He and I hit it off really well with guys that shoot straight from the hip,” Bryant said. “They don’t BS you and do silly stuff. Because of that, he and I have been extremely close from Day One.” Indeed, Butler was able to open up to Bryant like few before him, discussing his troubled past that included time in prison. “People always said he was not easy to be around,” Butler said. “That was totally wrong.” Butler, who may now be wrapping up a 14 year career after the Sacramento Kings declined to pick up his option, has stayed close with Kobe, so much so that Bryant wrote the forward to Butler’s recently released biography, a gesture which Caron called “one of the biggest moments of my life.”
8 Hated: Nick “Swaggy P” Young (The Headline Maker)
On his way out the door, after scoring 60 in his final game, Kobe Bryant threw Nick “Swaggy P” Young’s shoes in the trash. Why? Cause when Young asked him to sign his Adidas kicks, Kobe, a Nike-sponsored athlete, FULLY declined. Of course, Bryant and Young have a history. Young once told Bryant in a practice, laughably, that “nobody” could guard him one-on-one. He was overheard saying “to take a break little man, you look tired,” and commented on the upset of the Golden State Warriors in 2014 when Kobe was unable to play as “some guys played like ‘Django Unchained.’ They were free tonight.” Of course, as many are, Bryant seems to be alternatively amused and peeved by Young’s laid back style and playful attitude. Young has also called Bryant his “mentor” and when the scandal broke of teammate D’Angelo Russell secretly taping and then releasing Young admitting to cheating on pop star Iggy Azalea earlier this year, Bryant reportedly played mediator to help the two young teammates move forward from the incident. Now, as the post-Bryant era begins, Young and Russell headline a surprisingly successful team as two of its top scorers.
7 Loved: Metta World Peace (The Other Headline Maker)
The man formerly known as Ron Artest wanted so badly to be Kobe’s teammate that after the Lakers got blown out by 39 points in Game Six of the 2008 NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics, and the Black Mamba was in the shower letting off some steam, he heard someone walk in. "I want to come help you," Artest said. "If I can, I'm going to find a way to come to LA and give you the help you need to win a title.” To this day, nobody knows how Metta World Peace got past security (he wasn’t even playing in the game). He joined the team after the next season, and played with them from 2009-2013, playing a major role in the Game Seven win against those same Celtics just two years later. After the Lakers signed him again in 2015, World Peace said “Kobe is the main reason why I worked so hard in the last couple of years. I always wanted to come back and play with Kobe… People can say he’s selfish all they want. But in the game, he’s so fundamentally sound. That’s tough to be fundamentally sound under all that pressure.”
The 17 year vet, in fact, felt so connected to Bryant that in Kobe’s final game, he was the one who walked away exhausted. “I just remember around the fourth quarter having a headache from screaming and jumping so loud. I mean jumping so high, I guess.”
6 Hated: Dwight Howard (The "Big" Bust)
After being signed to the “Big Three” disaster of 2012-13 of Bryant and Steve Nash, Dwight Howard left after only one season, his lowest scoring one in five years. He claimed “I wanted Kobe and me to work,” but was not happy when Bryant publicly called him out to play through a torn labrum. “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.’” For his part, Bryant felt Howard just… didn’t get it. “I tried teaching Dwight. I tried showing him. But the reality is that when you have a perception of what it is to win a championship - and most perceptions of what it's like to win are a very outgoing, very gregarious locker room where you pick each other up and you're friends all the time… But when he saw the reality of it, it made him uncomfortable.”
“I just felt like it wasn’t a team,” Howard said. Which, to Kobe’s above point, may be why he doesn’t have any rings yet.
5 Loved: Derek Fisher (The Respected Teammate)
When you have a championship ring for every finger on your hand, its no surprise you love the teammate who got you them. But the friendship of the two men who broke into the league together in 1996-97 traces back to before any of the hardware. Fisher didn’t back down in their frequent one-on-one matches during their rookie season, and later said “Although (Kobe) became one of the greatest players to ever play far better than I am, he respected the fact that I was somehow irrational to believe I could possibly be as good as him. I was going to fight for everything I could fight for.” When Kobe retired twenty years later, Fisher wrote an op-ed for Sports Illustrated titled “Without Kobe Bryant, There Is No Derek Fisher.” In it, Fisher actually credited the brief period that he and Bryant were NOT teammates with their friendship truly blossoming. “When we were working together, we saw each other every day, but after I left Los Angeles, our communication became more personal. ‘How you doing? How you holding up? How’s the family? How are the kids? How are you feeling about what’s going on with your team?’ In fact, we spoke so often that by the time I re-signed with the Lakers in 2007, we had grown much closer than we ever had been during the eight years we had shared as teammates.”
4 Hated: Karl Malone (The Legend)
The Black Mamba certainly knows how to draw controversy. The 19 year NBA vet Karl Malone scored the second most points in history while with the Utah Jazz for 18 of them, but his final season still has us pre-occupied today. On November 23, 2004, Malone made a pass at another man’s wife. That man: Kobe Bryant. Of the incident, Bryant’s agent Rob Pelinka said “Kobe and Karl had a true friendship, much more than teammates. Their wives are quite friendly as well. Kobe has told me that he feels very hurt and betrayed by what has happened.” Malone’s agent, Dwight Manley, saw it quite differently, however. “He never hit on Vanessa, nor would he.... In fact, when he first heard about [the accusation], he said, 'You have to be kidding me.’” Malone claimed that Bryant followed with a “string of threats”, even calling his home the next day. Over a decade later, he has a “standing offer” to fight Kobe if he still feels wronged.
3 Loved: Carmelo Anthony (The Brother)
Yes, while trade rumors abounded for years (Carmelo Anthony noted that Bryant campaigned for him to be dealt to the Lakers before being traded to the Knicks in 2011), Carmelo and Kobe never suited up together in the NBA, but they became close when they joined forces for a greater cause - playing for their country. The pair won two gold medals together in Beijing and London, and Anthony claims a friendship was forged. “Like a mental big brother to me, we became close with those two Olympics,” Anthony said. “Getting a chance of him accepting me as a friend, as a brother, he didn’t really have too many people he could talk to. If he liked you, he loved you. If he didn’t, it was a problem. I’m glad I was on the good side of that.”
Like so many others, Anthony earned Bryant’s respect by not backing down from him on the court. He recalled from an early game in his Denver Nuggets days when they exchanged hard fouls, “I remember him coming to me and saying, ‘Man you gained my respect, you earned my respect, just from that simple fact that I do that to a lot of people and they back down and you didn’t back down.”
2 Hated: Shaquille O’Neal (The... well... SHAQ)
Kobe Bryant’s most successful stretch of his career, not surprisingly, was intrinsically linked to his most complicated and stressed professional relationship, winning three straight championships from 99-00 to 01-02 alongside Shaquille O’Neal. Looking back on it, Shaq said “Especially us, the 'young brothers,' we always worry about useless titles. Like, 'I'm the man. It's my team.' Stuff that doesn't matter anyway. And I think there was a little bit too much focus on that by both of us.” By 2003-04, their final year together, they were outrightly antagonistic. When the team gathered for training camp, O’Neal arrived before Bryant and commented “the whole team is here.” As the season neared, Kobe responded that Shaq needed to stop “coming to camp fat and out of shape.” Brian Shaw had to pull them apart, prompting O’Neal allegedly threatening to murder Bryant.
"I think our time had just run its course," O'Neal said. "But we were the most dominant one-two punch in Lakers history. I said it. Write it down. Take a picture. Fax it to all the retired Lakers. I said it. The most enigmatic, dominant, controversial one-two punch in Lakers history.” We don’t disagree! But…
1 Love: Pau Gasol (The White Swan)
…If Shaq and Kobe were the most dominant one-two in Lakers history, Pau Gasol and Kobe may be one-two point five. After being traded from the Grizzlies in 2008, the duo immediately made three straight finals appearances, including two championships. Bryant nicknamed him The White Swan to go along with his “Black Mamba” persona, and greeted Pau on his first day with a 1:30am knock on his hotel room door to welcome him to the team and to let him know “he felt I could take him to the top again,” as Gasol recalled it. “Our relationship clicked from the beginning,” he wrote in a Sports Illustrated op-ed upon Kobe’s retirement. “We both knew we needed each other to succeed.” The two didn’t hang out much off the court, but when Gasol contemplated moving on in 2014, Bryant visited him in his home in Redondo Beach to recruit him to stay in L.A. and finish their careers together. While that didn’t happen, as the six-time All-Star Gasol winds down his now 16 year and counting career with the San Antonio Spurs, they will probably soon be joined together once again, permanently, in the Hall of Fame.
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