Despite being one of the greatest players in NBA history, Kobe Bryant’s start in the NBA wasn’t so smooth. Coming into the league as a teenager, and as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers that were a championship contender, wasn’t an easy task. In a recent interview on the podcast All The Smoke with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, Kobe Bryant talked about the lowest moments in his career.
Apart from losing in the NBA finals against the Boston Celtics back in 2008, not playing in his first two, three years was the least favorite part in his illustrious career. Even though the Lakers at that time had solid players on the guard positions, Kobe believes he should have played more minutes. He said the main reason why that didn’t happen was because of the Dell Harris, who was the head coach for the Lakers during those years.
“There were a couple of them. Losing to the Celtics in 08 was tough. Before that, at the beginning of the journey, it was not playing. Coming in as a rookie knowing shit is going to be like this, I would go back to school because I felt like my coach Del Harris at the time was trying to make sure he is not favoring the young kids and as a result, he swan in the other direction doing things that weren’t really fair. My first 2,3 years were a nightmare for me.”
Bryant was a member of the 96 draft class, which remains one of the most talented in NBA history. All the best players from that class immediately played a lot of minutes for their teams, which frustrated Bryant, who was getting garbage minutes with the Lakers. During that period, he was actively questioning his decision to come to the NBA and not going to college, thinking he would at least play more minutes in NCAA.
“I saw my peers playing 30-35 minutes per game doing their thing, and I am sitting here glued to the bench. I was getting really pissed off and ticketed off, thinking I should have just go to college. That was the hardest part.”
The lockout season in 1998-99 was important for his career because that year, he established himself as a starter for the Lakers. Rick Fox, at that time, was injured, and Kobe replaced him playing a small forward for the next ten games. It was a moment Bryant was waiting for, and he came ready to play. According to Bryant, he was logging in double-doubles, and the coaching staff had no choice other than accept Bryant as a member of the starting lineup for the Lakers.
“I started as a small forward, and I had like seven straight games with a double-double or something like that. I’ve been to the starting lineup ever since.”