Kobe is one of the most polarizing players in the history of the game because of his view of passing. In his eyes, it’s a necessary evil.
Bryant was always known for his drive. He had an unparalleled focus on greatness, and that made him hard to be around. When someone who is a maniac about dedicating himself 100% to his craft expecting the same dedication from you, things can get difficult. So in Kobe’s mind, him passing to anyone who doesn’t work as hard as him is a sacrifice he’s doing for the sake of team spirit.
When you are a 7’1 and 325lbs, your working habits are different, but you are still great. This was the root of all conflict between Kobe and Shaq. An eternal battle between two fantastic players who had very different attitudes towards achieving greatness.
In a recent interview on a Barstool podcast The Corp, Kobe gave an example of some of the sacrifices he was willing to make:
Phil come to me and say; there was a year where I had 40 points in 9 straight games, Shaq was out, it was a toe thing. So Phil comes to me before this stretch like “Kobe we need you to take over the offense.” Alright, cool., I got it. So, that literally started the streak, 40 points in 9 straight games. Shaq comes back from injury and I still continue to do it. Phil calls me to his offense and goes “Hey, we’re starting to lose the big fella.” What do you mean? “He’s not getting any attention. This 40 point streak is starting to take away his fire, to prove something. I’m gonna need you to start dialing it back.” I’m like “WHAAAAT?!?!” Phil says “We gonna lose him and we need him in June.” OK, alright, We have a game against the Clippers, I scored 38 or something like that, had a chance to score 40 again. It’s a blowout game, I dumped the ball to Shaq instead of shooting a wide open shot. The 40 point streak ended that night, and that’s inside stuff that people don’t know.
Here are Kobe’s stats during the streak (via NBA.com):
- Games: 9
- Minutes: 41.0
- Points: 44.0
- Rebounds: 5.2
- Assists: 3.4
- Steals: 2.6
- Blocks: 0.9
- Field Goal %: 49.6%
- 3-Point %: 47.1%
- Free Throw %: 83.2%
- Plus/Minus: +11.2
This summery is missing one stat I always look for when thinking about Kobe. He averaged a bit over 31 shots per game! To put in into perspective, LeBron’s career high in a season was 23.1 in Cleveland in ’05/’06; Westbrook in his ridiculous stat-hunting ball-hoarding MVP season was at 24 attempts per game.
Now here’s where the mind plays tricks on you: the next game against the Clippers, the one where he gave up the streak in the last minutes to cuddle Shaq’s ego. He had 32 points, and he still took 26 shots!!
It goes back to your perspective of the game. To some taking, 26 shots seem like a sacrifice. Personally, stories like these fortify my belief that he was a selfish player. To be more exact, Kobe never saw winning as a team effort. To him, it was always about HIM winning championships and people not getting in the way.
When you look at his entire biography, it fits. If only he chose gold of tennis, it wouldn’t be such a big deal.
P.S. If he had gotten to 10 straight games with 40 points, he would’ve been better than Jordan, but he would only match the third best player ever. Three longest streaks of 40+ in NBA history was Wilt in ’61 – 14 games, Wilt in ’62 – 14 games and Wilt in ’62 – 10 games.