Bryant wrote an essay for The Player’s Tribune where he detailed his obsession with studying Allen Iverson. AI and Kobe both entered the NBA in 1996 – Iverson as the #1 overall pick and Bryant as the #13 pick.
Five years later, Bryant’s Lakers battled Iverson’s Sixers in the NBA Finals but the rivalry started long before that, unbeknownst to Iverson.
Bryant’s “obsessive and maniacal” study of the Philly guard began after a night in November where Iverson scored 35 points on the Knicks and Bryant scored 2 points while playing only 5 minutes in a game against the Rockets. This apparently threw Bryant into a rage-filled episode where he flipped the tables in his hotel room. He realized there was a big gap between him and The Answer
Adding fuel to the fire, Iverson dropped 41 points on the Lakers in a 1999 contest.
Working harder wasn’t enough,” wrote Bryant. “I had to study this man maniacally. I obsessively read every article and book I could find about AI. I obsessively watched every game he had played, going back to the IUPU All-American Game. I obsessively studied his every success, and his every struggle. I obsessively searched for any weakness I could find.
I searched the world for musings to add to my AI Musecage. This led me to study how great white sharks hunt seals off the coast of South Africa. The patience. The timing. The angles.
It worked as Kobe contained the explosive guard in the next meeting in 2000 and vowed to never let another player possess such a hold on him.
When I started guarding AI, he had 16 at the half. He finished the game with 16.
Revenge was sweet.
But I wasn’t satisfied after the win. I was annoyed that he had made me feel that way in the first place.
I swore, from that point on, to approach every matchup as a matter of life and death. No one was going to have that kind of control over my focus ever again.
This is what makes Kobe, Kobe.