He had about 32 in the first three quarters, and then I got in the game, and I started to guard him. I told him this, but he said he didn’t remember. I think he had about six points on me, but he said he gave me 40, so.Metta Sandiford-Artest, ESPN
Their rivalry in the making transferred to NBA hardwoods, where the two would have heated duels before becoming teammates with the Lakers and winning an NBA championship. But even prior to them teaming up with the purple and gold, Bryant had massive respect for Artest as a basketball player and a competitor. He would always push Metta to the limit, and Kobe would do the same to him.
It was extremely tough guarding Kobe because he can shoot. He can also drive, and he was strong, mid-range, extremely intelligent; it was really hard guarding him. It was really tough.Metta Sandiford-Artest, ESPN
The two developed a bond after becoming teammates in ’09. They would go at each other at practices, setting the intensity standard for the rest of the group and developing a relationship and trust that proved to be crucial on their way towards the organization’s 16th NBA title in ’10.
We became kinda friends on the court. When we got on the same team, we just saw eye to eye. It was more like mutual respect. He loved the game so much, and that’s why I appreciated him so much because we could see eye to eye as brothers just from how we competed. It’s really interesting how we clicked.Metta Sandiford-Artest, ESPN
Bryant wasn’t the one to let anyone off the hook. That’s why Artest was the perfect guy to join forces with Mamba. He could meet the level of day to day effort, and intensity Kobe demanded from him. In fact, every single guy on that championship roster could—even the guys who didn’t spend a lot of meaningful minutes on the floor. Kobe wanted them to bring it, so they brought it.
That’s why Sasha Vujačić was able to seal Game 7 with two free throws. That’s why Artest hit a three to put the Lakers up 6 with just over a minute left on the clock. They had the confidence necessary, which derived from everyday efforts to meet the level of greatness set by Kobe.
That’s what Sandiford-Artest loved the most about the late great Kobe Bryant. He was all-in, no matter the challenge in front of him. And he was never afraid–to the point it became contagious. His teammates fed off of that, and the whole NBA brotherhood continues to do it a year after the tragedy.