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Several things come to mind when you think of Kobe Bryant, the late basketball player. The picture of him holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy will live on in the minds of many. Others will remember his 81-point performance in 2006. Those who want a broader perspective may recall Kobe’s renowned Mamba Mentality. Allen Iverson, it seems, is all too familiar with that work ethic.
A.I. stepped in after Bryant’s tragic death. sent an open letter to the former Laker in which he expressed his gratitude. Despite the fact that the two men didn’t have the best of relationships, Iverson did recall an early brush with Kobe’s renowned competitive edge.
In 1996, both Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant started their famous NBA careers.
The names “Iverson” and “Bryant” loom big in NBA history these days. Both guards, though, were still young guys with a lot to prove in 1996.
After two spectacular seasons at Georgetown, A.I. joined the NBA draft in 1996. With the first overall selection, the Philadelphia 76ers selected him, and the guard was soon strutting his thing on the professional stage. He scored 35 points on the Knicks in Madison Square Garden as a rookie, and he even crossed Michael Jordan over during a game against the Bulls. Iverson stood tall as the solution to the Sixers’ past issues, even if he couldn’t bring a title back to Philly.
Bryant debuted professionally in 1996, entering the NBA draft straight out of high school. He was drafted 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets, but he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. While he didn’t instantly dominate the competition as Iverson did, Kobe showed plenty of promise and was well on his way to fame before long.
Allen Iverson recalled a previous meeting with the Lakers’ star.
During the 2001 NBA Finals, Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant exchange insults. | Jeff Haynes /AFP via Getty Images
Bryant didn’t get much playing time in his first two NBA seasons, but the rookie guard wasn’t lacking in confidence or motivation. Just ask Allen Iverson what he thinks about it.
Iverson wrote a heartfelt letter to Kobe after his tragic passing in The Players’ Tribune. Bryant, he said, was the “fiercest competitor” he’d ever seen, and he gave an example of why.
I remember hearing the story of you being on the road and seeing highlights of me hitting 35 on the Knicks at the Garden our rookie year, and you being so enraged that you broke up the hotel room and began investigating me like you were in the CIA. “GET ME THE FILE ON A.I.” — I’m sure it was something along those lines. Investigating how great white sharks hunt seals in the Pacific Ocean and other related topics.
The Players’ Tribune published an article by Allen Iverson.
While it’s unclear if Kobe really viewed films of sharks killing seals — considering his nature, it’s not impossible — Iverson stated that Bryant supported his study on the court.
“What I like about that tale is that it is based on the facts. That was the extent of our friendship. Two guys who are pushing each other to achieve greatness. You were ALL up in my s— the next time you came through Philly,” Iverson said. “I wasn’t going to half-step you. Every initial step has to be taken 100 times. You’re [6-foot-6], yet you acted as though you wanted to protect me. You were looking for a challenge. You wanted to prove to me that you were the most ruthless motherf—– in the game’s history. I didn’t want ANYTHING to do with Kobe Bryant on the other end!!!”
It’s unclear when the story occurred, although the Lakers did visit Philadelphia soon after Iverson scored 35 points as a rookie for the Knicks. While shooting, The Answer only managed to score 16 points. If it was the game in issue, Kobe shot 222 from the field, so it seems like he performed his job on defense.
Of course, Kobe Bryant ultimately turned that energy into his well-known Mamba Mentality.
Bryant hadn’t yet developed his Black Mamba image in the early stages of his career. His well-known work ethic, on the other hand, was still going strong.
Years later, Kobe popularized what Iverson referred to as the Mamba attitude. He’d even write a book on it, telling Amazon Book Review that the mentality “is all about focusing on the process and believing in hard effort when it counts,” and that it’s “the ideal motto for the competitive spirit.” Reading the referee’s handbook, putting himself through various exercises, and bringing a DVD player along with him to study game video everywhere he went, the Laker great also did what he preached.
Perhaps he has a DVD of sharks hunting seals in the Pacific.
Basketball-Reference.com provided the statistics.
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