Before Kobe Bryant was announced as one of the best in the game, he was a die-hard fan like all of us. But unlike the rest of us, Bryant was able to secure the coveted signing 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 thanks to his father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant. And the list is pretty exclusive, to say the least.
“… What did I get? My dad even gave me an autograph of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Penny Hardaway… Shaquille O’Neal“Bryant said.
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As everyone knows, Kobe looked up to the great Michael Jordan and treated him like his big brother. Kobe ran to MJ for advice, whether on basketball, business or life. Bryant modeled his style of play on his air: footwork, fade, perimeter control and obsession. He was missing a ring to even out Jordan’s six rings, which is a feat in itself.
Kobe had also praised Scottie Pippen and his defensive instincts. In his ESPN Detail series, Bryant named Pippen several times, noting that he’s the big defensive player to study. Horace Grant was also a key player in the Chicago Bulls’ first hat-trick. Interestingly, Bryant would become Grant’s teammate and win a title with him in 2001.
Of course, we all know the connection between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe. Before Kobe, Penny Hardaway was Shaq’s sidekick. They were successful in Orlando, so it only made sense for Bryant to look up to them. Kobe actually met Shaq and Penny, noting that the big man was really nice to him. Penny didn’t necessarily show the same courtesy to him.
“How funny is that? Shaq was really nice to me when I met him. I was like 15. He was really nice to me. Penny not so much. I kind of carried that with me for the rest of my career,said Bryant.
Diehard Black Mamba fans wouldn’t be surprised at Kobe’s retort. He is known to take revenge on those who criticized him. Perhaps most famous is his amnesty game against the Dallas Mavericks. He lost 38 points to the Mavs after owner Mark Cuban suggested the Lakers use the amnesty clause that would void Bryant’s contract. Penny isn’t the only one on the Black Mamba blacklist.