When you talk about some of the most vindictive players in NBA history, the two names that jump straight to mind are Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Somehow former head coach George Karl managed to piss off both of them, resulting in some pretty exciting and fun stories.
In ‘The Last Dance‘ documentary, we all saw how Jordan took it personally when Karl didn’t greet him in a restaurant. Jordan would take it out on Karl’s Supersonics in the 1996 Finals as he got his revenge. Kobe had a different situation, but with the same outcome.
Back in 1998, Kobe Bryant was just starting his legacy, being the hottest young star in the NBA at the time. He got invited to first his All-Star game in Madison Square Garden, as all eyes were on him and MJ. It was a symbolic passing of the torch, as the two stars were going at it for the first three quarters, with Kobe scoring 18 to that point. But that was the end of the night for Kobe, as the West head coach George Karl decided to bench him in the 4th quarter. Jordan would win the game for the East and take the MVP award – Kobe never forgot that night.
Fast forward to 2019, Kobe was a guest on the Knuckleheads Podcast with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles, as he talked about that game and how it fueled him to take it out against George Karl and his Denver Nuggets later in his career:
“George Karl, which later in years became my motivation when we played against Denver, to never let them win a playoff series because he didn’t play me the whole fourth quarter of that game. Me and Mike went at it for three quarters, and then in the 4th quarter, the crowd is waiting for me to get back in there. He benches me the whole fourth. So it was like, ok. Ok. It’s on sight. So when we played the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs, it was like ‘Hold on. You’re never, you will never, beat me in a playoffs series.’”Kobe Bryant, Knuckleheads
Kobe held his word as he bounced out the Denver Nuggets in three different playoff series in 2008, 2009, and 2012. Those were some great Denver teams led by Carmelo Anthony, but they weren’t good enough to beat a motivated Kobe. Karl probably had no intentions of pissing off Kobe in 1998, but unfortunately for him, it didn’t matter, as Kobe decided he will never lose to him. That’s why you stay out of the way from players that have Kobe’s and MJ’s hunger for winning and revenge.