Kobe Bryant was known as someone who asked a lot from his teammates, and often they didn’t get along with him. The problem first presented itself when Kobe was in his early 20s and playing for the Lakers, where it seemed he was a complete outsider. Bryant had a completely different mindset than some of his teammates who, apart from basketball, were into night clubs and parties, and this is something he never loved to do.
Bryant was very determined to be the best basketball player, and others around him didn’t understand how serious he was even at such an early age. In one of the interviews, Phil Jackson said players didn’t want to go out and eat with him or watch a movie in their free time.
It was evident when Bryant started to assert himself as the second-best player behind Shaquille O’Neal. He even noticed other players began to treat him differently, and he could feel the tension every time he went to practice. This was mostly because of his playing style, which at that time, didn’t fit really well with the Lakers. It created friction between him and his teammates.
“The time I spend with my teammates doesn’t have to come in the night time. That’s not my personality, and it has never been and never will be. Something wasn’t right. I go to practice, and I feel a bit uncomfortable.”
The Lakers were chasing their second championship, and there was a period where Kobe Bryant missed several games, and the Lakers were winning games with ease without him. There was a notion going around the league the Lakers are playing better basketball without him. When asked whether he is happy with the system Lakers implemented and if it fits his game, Kobe said its not a good match.
“Absolutely not. Completely happy no, but happy enough to win, then yeah.”
Later that season, he came back from the injuries, and there was a lot of question marks whether he was capable of fitting well within the system. Bryant was smart enough to recognize the mistakes he previously made, and he accepted the fact the ball will have to go more down low to Shaq. He also realized he would have to play more alongside Shaq, so his game benefited a lot from that as well. Shaq would draw enough double teams, which left more room for Bryant to do his magic and be more effective than ever before.
They would win two more championships together, however, over time it was evident them two could no longer coexist in the same team. Later on in his career, Bryant would be characterized as a very demanding teammate; however, over time, he learned how to approach his teammates in the right manner. He eventually won two additional championships without Shaq and another group of guys that viewed him as a true leader both on and off the court.