A by-product of the borderline unhealthy obsession with being the best was that he made enemies along the way, and former Phoenix Suns legend Charles Barkley recalls the night he got on the wrong side of the five-time champion.
Kobe didn't care about making friends.
The two NBA heavyweights clashed heads following the Lakers' 2006 Game 7 playoff exit against the Suns. For context, the purple and gold were leading the series 3-2, and in Game 6, Bryant scored 50 points on 20 of 35 shooting from the field. Despite his monstrous scoring output, the veteran underwent heavy criticism in the days that followed, and the NBA community and wider media questioned his willingness to get his teammates involved.
Fast-forward to the win-or-go-home Game 7, Bryant responded in bizarre fashion by flat-out refusing to shoot the ball in the second half. He finished with 24 points but shot just 3 times after halftime.
Barkley didn't hold back
Postgame, Barkley was one of many NBA personalities to call out his antics, and recently the Hall of Famer revealed he and Bryant went back and forth into the early hours of the morning after the game. feuding
"Remember that night that Kobe wouldn't shoot the basketball against the Suns one year? I went off on him after the game, I said 'hey listen, we are all Kobe Bryant fans but what he did tonight was just total bullsh*t'. He wouldn't shoot the ball he was trying to prove he didn't have help. It was brutal. So he starts texting me after the game calling me every freaking name in the book, and this goes on for about 3 hours. His texts were cursing me out," Barkley said.
A blessing in disguise?
Barkley goes on to say that he and Bryant saw each other a year after the emotions had subsided, and Kobe admitted he was wrong.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and it's admirable that Bryant and Barkley could make amends after such a heated exchange.
It's not crazy to speculate that "The Black Mamba" took some of Barkley's messaging on board, as he slowly but surely started to trust his teammates more during his latter championship triumphs.
Following this playoff meltdown, Bryant powered the Lakers to back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010, and throughout these runs, he leaned on teammates such as Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher, Andrew Bynum, and Ron Artest to help him climb the mountain.