The beautiful part about the narratives on Kobe Bryant these days are untold stories from former teammates, rivals, and everyone who's experienced being around him.
Bryant is known as a legendary winner (on and off the court), but these untold stories continue to help us get to know him and appreciate him even more as both a competitor and human.
A recent story about Bryant came from former teammate Caron Butler, who played with the Lakers legend in 2004-2005. Butler, who developed a close friendship with Bryant, talked about how it was like to experience the Black Mamba's intense competitive side up close.
Caron once compared Bryant to LeBron James, who at that time was making a name for himself in the NBA. He saw that James nabbed a triple-double one night and talked smacked in Bryant's face about why he could never do what James accomplished in 2004.
"It was a back-to-back game, and when you get to the plane where you get the stat sheet of the game that day, I was sitting next to him at that time, and I was like 'LeBron had a triple-double and sh*t, you can never get one of those because your ass doesn't pass,'" Butler said.
"Kobe started laughing and said, 'Alright, I'll bet you 5,000 dollars I'll get a triple-double the next game,' and I'm like, 'Alright, bet it.' And sure enough, I think he was one rebound and assists shy by halftime. Every time he was doing that he was just looking at me and was just winking." Butler added.
According to Basketball-Reference, Bryant's triple-double in 2004 happened in December. He scored 36 points along with 10 rebounds and 14 assists against the Washington Wizards on the second night of a back-to-back.
Why didn't Kobe do this every game?
Butler also said that Bryant wasn't fond of putting up triple-doubles every game because he was so focused on scoring — which at that time the 2004-2005 mediocre Lakers team needed him to do.
This season also happened to be in the wake of Bryant's ugly breakup with Shaquille O'Neal, so Bryant took on the responsibility of carrying his team's scoring load.
"We talked after the game, and it just goes back to what his mindset was. He said if he wanted to, he could get a tripple double every game but his team needs him to score."
A competitor like no other
Butler also pointed out that playing alongside Bryant made him genuinely appreciative of how he was as a competitor. Aside from winning, Bryant also wanted to make sure that no other player would outwork him on the floor because he wanted to be the best player every night.
"He wants to take the hearts out of anyone guarding him and the other team knowing that they can't stop me. That's just the mamba mentality. He wanted to go out and compete at the highest level and make sure that you know that he was the best player on the court at all times," Butler said.
Caron's recent story on Bryant is just one of the many wholesome and raw stories that perfectly depict Bryant as a player. The Black Mamba may no longer be with us, but at the very least, his mentality and legacy live on as it continues to inspire people around the world.