Kobe Bryant is known to exact revenge on those who offended him. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban learned not to stalk smack against the Black Mamba after that infamous Amnesty Game. But years before Bryant hushed Cuban, iconic Orlando Magic guard Penny Hardaway was the first name on his hit list. Hardaway related that story - when he unintentionally irked the young Mamba and paid for it.
College or NBA?
Hardaway recalled the story when Bryant once approached him after a game to seek advice. Kobe was in a dilemma then: go to college or take his talents to the NBA? Kobe, known for his thirst for knowledge, asked Penny what he should do.
“He came to me after a Sixers game and asked me what he should do on going to the draft. I didn’t know. I had never known who Kobe was. And I felt so bad afterward because he asked me should he go, and I was like … ‘I don’t know, young fella. You might even go ahead and go to college.’ This is Kobe Bryant. … I didn’t know who he was,” Hardaway said on All The Smoke.
A few years after that fateful first encounter, Hardaway saw Bryant now donning the LA Lakers jersey. He wasn’t the young kid who was hungry for wisdom, though. Hardaway saw that Bryant was out for revenge.
“So, I’m in that game, and Kobe calls me out. I said, “Oh sh*t, this dude remembers.’ He remembered that day in Philly, and I just didn’t take it like he did, obviously. But all he needs is a little something to just get that momentum going. ‘I’m getting you back. You didn’t believe in me. You didn’t know me.’ And we went at each other in the Magic game. Obviously, he was a young pup, [and] I got the best of him in that game, but he did come to me and go, you know, ‘I want to learn, I want to be the greatest.’ And I knew then, though, that he was just going to be unstoppable and unbelievable,” Hardaway said.
Bryant also shared his view of his first meeting with Penny. He met Shaquille O’Neal during that night as well, who he revealed was very nice to him. Penny, meanwhile, wasn’t as cordial as the big fella.
“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.
Hardaway was right in his recollection that he pounced on the young Mamba in their first game. Bryant had 8 points in a 110-84 loss, while Hardaway had 21 points.
Kobe fans know that the Laker legend would not let such things pass. In their second meeting, Bryant erupted for 38 points on a stellar 62.5% shooting. He guided the Lakers to a 115-104 victory. Hardaway had a decent 22 points and 13 assists. But he was definitely aware of who Kobe was after that duel.
Overall, in the 18 regular-season games they played against each other, Bryant won 12. He also averaged 23.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.1 assists. Hardaway, for his part, averaged 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists. All in all, we can say Hardaway held his own against the Black Mamba. And it’s not something that an ordinary player could do.