One of Kobe Bryant’s most famous conflicts was with big man Dwight Howard. The root of their tiff can be traced all the way back to when they became teammates in 2012. Howard was expected to be Bryant’s partner in crime, pretty much like Shaq. But when things didn’t turn out well, the two started hating each other. One of Bryant’s epic disses at Howard was when he called him a “teddy bear.”
Soft as a teddy bear
The highest point of the Bryant-Howard rivalry is their little scuffle in a game between the Lakers and the Houston Rockets. Right after snagging a defensive rebound, Howard swung his elbows around, trying to fend off Bryant. He inadvertently (or not) elbowed Bryant right in the jaw. The referee blew the whistle, but the two continued yapping. This is the origin of the famous Kobe Bryant “soft” meme.
As always, the media wanted Bryant’s thoughts on the matter. Kobe said that such antics are part of the game. He thrived off those types of things. However, Byron Scott, the Lakers head coach during that time, contradicted Bryant’s thoughts, saying that the Mamba really does hate Howard’s guts. Kobe disagreed with Scott’s reading by praising Howard’s good-heartedness.
“You can’t help but like him, he’s a teddy bear.I really mean that. He is a really nice kid. But you know me. When you’re competing and you have a goal in mind, I know one way to get there and there’s certain times you don’t see eye to eye. That wasn’t one of those situations. He elbowed me in the face, you know I am going to let him know I don’t like that. It’s that simple,” Bryant said, per CHRON.
We can take Kobe’s words as is. That he really thinks highly of Howard. But we can also look at it from another angle. A teddy bear is soft and can easily be blown into bits. It’s not something you bring to war.
Patching things up
It was indeed a heated rivalry. The best part of everything is that the two legends were able to patch things up before Bryant’s passing. Howard later admitted that Bryant had agreed to help him in the 2020 Slam Dunk Contest.
It would’ve been great if Bryant was still around when Howard won his first title with the Lakers. Yes, Dwights wasn’t the franchise player he used to be. But he was an intrinsic part of that historic run. Bryant may have been right that Howard is soft as a teddy bear for his chummy personality. But when needed, Howard has the capacity to strip off his teddy bear costume and reveal his true self: a savage animal who exists only to hunt and kill.