When talking about some of the most competitive and fearless players in the history of the NBA, Kobe Bryant's name is at the top of that list. Notorious for his "Mamba Mentality," which presents working hard and going above and beyond to accomplish your goals, Kobe built his illustrious Hall-of-Fame career that left a deep influence on countless other basketball players and fans.
Kobe made his career with his immaculate talent and skill as one of the best scorers the league has ever seen. But what really put him over the top and amongst the best players in history was that competitive spirit and will to get dirty, just like his idol Michael Jordan. Of course, that mentality placed him in some serious battles with various "Kobe-stoppers,", especially in the playoffs. From Ruben Patterson, Doug Christie, Bruce Bowen, Raja Bell, Ron Artest, to Tony Allen, Kobe had to face and battle some of the toughest defenders the league has ever seen.
In 2010 during a regular-season game between the Lakers and the Magic, two teams that had just played each other in the Finals, tensions got high as Kobe Bryant got into it with Matt Barnes, another player known for his gritty style of play. That would give us the iconic moment of Barnes faking to throw the ball in Kobe's face, only for "The Mamba" not to flinch and stare back at him cold-bloodily.
Stories about that moment were told numerous times from Barnes and Kobe himself, which eventually led to the two teaming up in LA and becoming good friends. But recently, Barnes joined Gilbert Arenas on his podcast and shared what provoked Barnes to do the ball fake:
"In the Orlando situation, I mean anyone that plays Kobe knows he's dirty. Grabs you, elbows you, says sh*t, does whatever. But they'll never call a foul on him. Known for elbowing you in the sternum, known for just doing all kinds of crazy sh*t, but that was part of that mental warfare that he liked to put on you. This motherf***er elbowed me in my sternum, hit me in the nuts, elbowed me in the chin. Like I'mma fight this dude because these punk-a** refs aren't calling nothing. So when the ball fake sh*t happened, it wasn't like I'm gonna fake the ball in his face. Literally, my arms just did it by themselves. I wanted to slam that shi*t in his face. So I faked it, and then it kind of became what it did."
Matt Barnes, ">fubo Sports
Kobe may have been a superstar, but he played like he was any other player on the team, giving it his all on both sides of the floor and not fearing away from locking up the other team's best player, all while frustrating him mentally and psychically with his sneaky dirty moves. The will to do the dirty stuff and use his superstar status to get away with cheap shots and sneaky plays made Kobe an absolute menace on the court. Knowing every trick in the book, mixed with his unbelievable skillset, allowed Bryant to be so successful and great, as that is why his name will be forever remembered in the NBA world.