Most of us remember Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen as top-10, maybe top-5 for some, greatest shooting guards of all time. They were also NBA Finals rivals at one point and perennial NBA All-Stars. However, some may not know that the pair had a little feud during their prime.
Ray throws his hardest jab at Kobe
Undeniably, Bryant and Allen had a lot of things in common. Aside from both being members of the star-studded 1996 draft class, Kobe and Ray were also both lethal scorers. But the one thing they did not share was respect for each other.
In 2004, it can be recalled that Shaquille O’Neal left the Los Angeles Lakers for the Miami Heat. With the spotlight solely on Kobe, some believe that he can finally silence naysayers claiming he couldn’t win without Shaq. However, not for Allen.
"He's going to be very selfish," Allen said of Bryant in 2004 via Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "And he feels like he needs to show this league and the people in this country that he is better without Shaq. He can win championships without Shaq. So offensively, he's going to jump out and say, 'I can average 30 points. I can still carry the load on this team.’”
Allen, who was the top scorer of the Seattle Supersonics at the time, was certain that Bryant could score in bunches on any given night. However, he also pointed out that that trait was no different from what he, Tracy McGrady, and Allen Iverson brought to the table for their respective teams.
For “Ray-Ray,” it would all boil down to Bryant's capability to “win a championship” without his longtime co-star. And more importantly, could his ego and seemingly ball-hog attitude let him take a step back in order for his teammates to grow.
"Can you win a championship? I think that's the question,” Allen questioned. “Carrying guys on your back and making everybody better… He has the talent, he can do it. But is his attitude going to allow him to take a back seat and let Lamar Odom shine and let Caron Butler have his nights and bring those big guys along with him?"
Confident that Bryant wouldn't have the attitude necessary to lead a team, Allen went on and made a bold prediction about the Lakers star’s future.
"If Kobe doesn't see he needs two and a half good players to be a legitimate playoff contender or win a championship in about a year or two he'll be calling out to Jerry Buss that 'We need some help in here,' or 'Trade me'," Allen predicted. "And we'll all be saying, 'I told you so,' when he says that."
Kobe hit back
Allen’s dig at Bryant did not go unnoticed. Social media was not yet a thing at the time, so if Kobe wanted to rebuttal, he would have to throw shade at Allen in an interview. However, that’s just not how the “Black Mamba” did his thing.
With some fans waiting for Bryant’s response, rumors soon swirled, claiming Kobe left Allen a voicemail saying, “I’m gonna bust you’re a**.”
As expected, Allen was quizzed to lift the lid on the said voicemail from Kobe. The Sonics star denied receiving such a message. Bryant, on the other hand, also refused to address whether he and Allen were having quite a beef. However, he made it very clear to everyone what he thinks of Allen in one powerful sentence.
Did Bryant have the last laugh?
In all fairness, Bryant and Allen had every right to talk down on their peers, given their exceptional talent. Since criticizing Bryant, Allen went on and constantly improved in scoring. In fact, he logged his best tally in points per game in the 2006-07 season with 26.4.
Bryant, meanwhile, was also playing the best basketball of his career when Shaq left. He opened up 2006 with a bang by registering a new career-high and dropped 81 points on the Toronto Raptors.
By 2007, neither of the legendary shooting guards has mentioned anything about their feud. Things took a huge turn when Allen, who joined the Boston Celtics to form the “Big 3” with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce that year, won his first championship. And he beat the Lakers team led by Bryant.
However, Bryant declined to end the story that way. He swiftly bounced back and spearheaded the “Purple and Gold” to back-to-back NBA titles. The first one (2009) was monumental for Kobe as it was also his first championship without Shaq. But the second (2010) was the sweetest as it was his revenge against the Allen and the Celtics.
Allen also won his second title in 2013 with the Heat. However, as far as Mamba fans are concerned, Kobe already had the last laugh when he proved Allen wrong. Others may point out that after a few years of putting up stats, Kobe realized he couldn't do it on his own and forced the Lakers to bring Pau Gasol and Ron Artest/Metta World Peace to LA.