In an interview for The Players Tribune, Kenyon Martin talked about the five players that he respected the most when playing in the NBA during his 15 year-long career. Martin was known as a fierce competitor and a solid defensive player who admired players who had the same level of intensity as he did, and Kobe Bryant was one of those players.
Martin said most people don’t know Kobe was a real badass when it came to standing up against other players, who would often try to provoke him and get him out of rhythm. People often remember Kobe as one of the skilled basketball players of all time and rightfully so, but Martin said he had that other side to him, which made him the fierce player and competitor that fans also remember about him.
“People can say whatever they want about Kobe, but Kobe don’t take no shit from nobody. Kobe would fight you in a minute. He would. That’s something I think a lot of fans didn’t know. People think of Kobe for all that skillful basketball stuff, but not for the fact that, if you stepped up to him, he’d fight back. Or if you clubbed him or hit him, he’d make you pay. That’s ’cause Mamba would literally take your head off to win the game, man. He’d fuck you up. There’s a lot of trash-talking on the court, but nobody ever said shit to Kobe.”
Indeed, Kobe had quite a few scuffles and fights during his 20 year-long career with the most notable ones being against Chris Childs in 2000 and Reggie Miller in 2002. When he was younger, he would often react to these provocations, but as Bryant got older, he would just let his game do the speaking for him, and most players didn’t dare to trash-talk him at all. That is the reputation he built around the league, which is something Kenyon Martin respects a lot about Bryant.