LeBron James once said that he thought he was famous until he went to China with Kobe Bryant. James is probably the most famous basketball player right now. But there was a point in time when Bryant was on a different level than everyone playing in the NBA. People from across the globe worshipped the 18-time All-Star. For those who grew up in the 90s, their GOAT was Michael Jordan. For those who became basketball fanatics in the 2000s, it was Kobe Bryant.
In Caron Butler’s book entitled “Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA,” the ex-NBA player shared a story about Bryant’s immense popularity. After their road game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Butler decided to make a quick stop at his childhood home in Racine, Wisconsin, for some good old mom’s cooking. Ahead of the game, he told his teammates and the coaching staff that they were free to join in. Briant Grant, Lamar Odom, Sasha Vujacic, and Chris Mihm were game. For all it’s worth, Butler approached Kobe and asked if he’d like to come. To his surprise, Bryant said, “No doubt.”
From a simple family dinner, the whole thing turned into a family reunion. Some 50 family members and friends showed up at Butler’s home to get a glimpse of Kobe. Once they settled in the Butler household, they were asked to step out once again. Butler briefly mentioned it in his book, but Gilbert Arenas — his teammate in Washington for four and a half seasons — beefed it up recently. According to Arenas, once Kobe showed up, he yelled “everyone out the house” and let his security detail check the house out.
When we’re talking about a massive celebrity like Kobe Bryant, a security check is probably the least surprising thing. If you’re a star player in the NBA, being surrounded by fellow athletes is good enough protection from nasty fans or other bad elements. But when you’re Kobe Bryant, being surrounded by seven-footers is not enough. You still need a good amount of massive men around you.
Having that type of security is acceptable — before and after the dinner. But during the feast itself, it’s a simple act of courtesy to be one with the crowd. Kobe understood how people reacted to his celebrity and didn’t look down on them - he was cool and funny about it. As Butler wrote in his book, “During dinner, as he ate some ribs, someone hanging over him, awed by being in his presence, said, ‘Kobe Bryant eats ribs?’”
”Kobe looked up, smiled, and said, ‘I pump gas, too.’”
Caron Butler, Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA
It is indeed an interesting Kobe Bryant story from Butler — who’s actually one of the Black Mamba’s closest friends. Though Butler spent just a season with Kobe in LA, the two kept on talking about basketball and pretty much everything under the sun. Butler even said that it was Kobe who cured him of his addiction to Mountain Dew.
As much as they lead extraordinary lives, it’s good to remind ourselves that even the greatest ones eat ribs, pump gas, and have many problems similar to the rest of us.