Metta World Peace had his sheer of battles against Kobe Bryant before they became teammates with the Lakers. Still, there is one specific story where Metta realized what made Kobe different from all the other players he ever had to go up against in his career.
Kobe is a killer, he is different
Metta World Peace and the late great Kobe Bryant built an interesting relationship during their playing careers in the NBA. At first, they frequently went at each other in the regular season and the playoffs. Later on, Metta joined Kobe with the Lakers and, in their first year together, won an NBA championship back in 2010.
In an interview on the 'All The Smoke' podcast, Metta shared how different their relationship was when they were competitors, especially in the series against the Houston Rockets back in 2009. One year later, they became teammates, and Metta saw firsthand what motivated Kobe and how he approached other players on the team.
When Artest played with the Houston Rockets, he and Kobe got into a few scuffles during the series in which Kobe averaged over 28 points per game. Being competitive as they both were, there was a lot of physical contact, and, according to Artest, Kobe committed several offensive fouls to get in a favorable position. Hot-headed as Artest was, he tried to provoke Kobe to fight him, but he couldn't care less and was laser-focused on the game instead.
"Kobe is my boy, but at this time I'm going to the ref, and I'm like, didn't you just see him do that, and the ref says he didn't see it. So I go to Kobe, and I tell him, don't you ever do that again, and Kobe doesn't care; he is focused on the game. Kobe is a killer, he is different. I look up to Kobe."
Joining the Lakers saved Metta's career
Artest joined the Lakers as a replacement for Trevor Ariza, who left the team, and immediately clicked with Kobe, one of the first people to contact him. He remembers everything that was said about Kobe was true, and the competitive environment he got himself into suited him and the team that needed someone like Artest.
"Practices were very competitive, you know how Kobe is. We were jawing, we had it going sometimes, and those are the moments I miss from Kobe. Just playing well and working hard at 5:30 in the morning. First-year we got a ring, and it was hard."
At that time of his career, Metta didn't get that much interest from other NBA teams, but when the Lakers and Kobe called him up, there was no question in his mind this was an opportunity of a lifetime. Playing alongside one of the greatest players in NBA history on a championship-caliber team was just what Metta needed to put somewhat an exclamation point to his illustrious career. Becoming an NBA champion is extremely hard, but Metta was an essential piece during that run and learned a lot along the way from his former nemesis Kobe Bryant. Artest stayed with the Lakers for four seasons after playing one season with the Knicks and then his last two seasons with the Lakers again.