Before Kobe Bryant was heralded as one of the best in the game, he was a diehard fan like the rest of us. But unlike the rest of us, Bryant was able to get the prized signature of basketball legends and then share the same court with them a few years later.
From idols to colleagues
Bryant recalled the first NBA players who signed his shoes. He got them through his father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant. And the list is pretty exclusive, to say the least.
As well all know, Kobe looked up to the great Michael Jordan and treated him as his big brother. Kobe ran to MJ for advice, be it about basketball, business, or life. Bryant patterned his playstyle to his Airness: the footwork, the fadeaway, the perimeter mastery, and the obsession. He was one ring short of tying Jordan’s six rings which is a stellar accomplishment in itself.
Kobe had also heaped praise for Scottie Pippen and his defensive instincts. In his ESPN series Detail, Bryant namedropped Pippen several times, noting that he’s the great defensive player one should study. Horace Grant, too, was a critical player in the Chicago Bulls’ first three-peat. Interestingly, Bryant would become teammates with Grant and win a title with him in 2001.
Of course, we all know the link between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe. Before Kobe, Penny Hardaway was Shaq’s sidekick. They achieved success in Orlando, and so it made a ton of sense that Bryant looked up to them. Kobe actually met Shaq and Penny, noting that the big man was really kind to him. Penny didn’t necessarily extend the same courtesy to him.
“How funny is that though? Shaq was really nice to me actually when I met him. I was like 15 years old. He was really nice to me. Penny not so much. I kind of carried that with me for the rest of my career,” Bryant said.
Diehard Black Mamba fans wouldn’t be surprised with Kobe’s retort. He’s known for exacting revenge on those who criticized him. Perhaps the most famous one was his Amnesty Game against the Dallas Mavericks. He dropped 38 points on the Mavs after owner Mark Cuban suggested the Lakers use the amnesty clause that would void Bryant’s contract. Penny is not alone in the Black Mamba’s hitlist.