During a Team USA workout in Las Vegas, Irving—who had just been drafted by the Cavaliers—started talking trash to Kobe and told him that he could beat him in a game of 1-on-1.
“You really want to play me one-on-one?” Kobe asked
This is not a high school kid coming to you — ‘Kobe, Kobe, oh my God!'” Irving says. “This is me, coming to talk to you, one-on-one.”
He also told him that he would gladly put $50,000 on the line in order to entice Kobe to accept his challenge.
“Get your dad on the phone right now. Be like, ‘Pops, I’m trying to bet Kob’ 50 grand I can beat him one-on-one.’ He’ll be like, ‘Son, are you crazy? Are you crazy?'”
Irving then reminds Bryant that he’d have to defend him, too, resulting in a dismissal (“So?”) before settling on a handshake deal to play the one-on-one game next summer, with the loser donating $50,000 to charity.
While speaking with NBA.com earlier this week, Irving was reminded of the moment and asked to talk about it. He was also asked whether or not he thinks Kobe would still accept his offer in 2016. Irving said he definitely remembers what took place and added that he knows Kobe would still hold his own in the trash-talking department if Irving challenged him again.
Here what Irving had to say about the epic challenge:
It’s just unbelievable to even realize how far we’ve all come in that short of time. Being a young kid in 2012, challenging one of the best players to ever play the game, thinking about his mentorship of me now and me being able to grow as a basketball player and a man, there’s nothing like it. I still want the 1-on-1 game, and I know that if I texted him right now and I said, ‘Come to Vegas,’ and we had this same bet on the line, I don’t know what he would say but I know he would have some words for me.
And while the two never ended up playing, it made for a really memorable moment.