‘Dear Kobe, this is going to be tough. But I need to get this off my chest. Everybody clear out for me and Kobe. Clear the paint for Chuck and Kobe, one last time.‘
As for many, it starts with the mentality for A.I. That superhero-like ‘I’m not backing down from anybody’ approach – not even when facing my personal standard of basketball excellence. That’s when it all started with Iverson – that first clash of No.23 vs. No.8.
The first time I saw you going up against Black Jesus when you were 18 years old, I knew you were a killer. That’s when I realized you were going to be a legend in this game. You were going hard at Mike that night. No fear whatsoever. I mean, I knew from passing you in traffic over the years that you were a dog. But when I saw you going at Black Jesus like that? That’s when I knew you were a kindred spirit.Allen Iverson, The Players’ Tribune
For 6-1 point guard, and 6-6 shooting guard, that was the point of identification. The fearless aura to them – that was their common ground. It was a starting point in developing a bond. A bond that laid upon the grounds of two people whose pursuits of greatness intertwined.
But they never crossed a line. Whenever they stepped on the floor – it was war. They went at each other uncompromisingly, but always within the borders of competitiveness. And they fed off each other, almost in a symbiotic way.
It was like heavyweight fighters beating the hell out of one another. And then at the bell, it’s nothing but love and respect. Greatness needs company, and we needed each other. Mike needed Prince, like Prince needed Mike. Tyson needed Holyfield like Holyfield needed Tyson.Allen Iverson, The Players’ Tribune
Everybody needs that person to say, Oh, you’re the sh*t, huh? Well, I’m the sh*t, too. Well, for A.I. – Kobe was the sh*t. The toughest, fiercest competitor he had ever faced, to the point there were times when even Iverson didn’t want any part of Kobe Bryant. Not in ’01, though. The two were going at each other like fighters, but from the point of pure admiration, they had for one another.
Whether it was playing for an NBA championship, or fighting for a scoring title, they were non stop. They pushed each other, as both were paving their ways towards the NBA’s iconism. And they got there, both in their own unique ways. Iverson got there as a scorer and a culture-shifter, and Kobe got there as a winner.
Any time anybody asks me, ‘Who’s the greatest of all-time?’ I’m not going to bullsh*t you. M.J. is always Number 1. I know you’d say the same. Black Jesus, that’s the G.O.A.T. But Number 2? Number 2, I’m always going to say it’s Kobe Bryant.Allen Iverson, The Players’ Tribune
From talking sh*t and smiling at the free-throw line, to hugging Kobe at the Staples, congratulating him on two jerseys being retired – Iverson is keeping his Black Mamba memories close to his heart, and they’re not going anywhere.
Until the two meet again.