Robert Horry is the latest former athlete to take his thoughts to The Players' Tribune, and the former Los Angeles Lakers champion had plenty to say about his former teammate Kobe Bryant. In the first paragraph he outright calls Bryant the "hardest working player" he's ever played with, and the anecdote he offers regarding the relentless mentality of Kobe even as a rookie only seals the deal.
Horry was traded to the Lakers during the '96-97 season -- Kobe's first in the NBA. Despite the Black Mamba actually putting up 136 threes while shooting 37.5 percent from deep (second-best mark of his career), Robert remembered Kobe as a player that struggled to match his veteran teammates in a shooting game they played after every practice. Kobe lost to Horry, Kurt Rambis, Mitch Richmond and Brian Shaw for months, but would be the first player in the gym working on his shot every day until the day he finally triumphed. Here's the story, via The Players' Tribune:
When I got traded to the Lakers in '97, Kobe Bryant was just a rookie. The dude couldn't shoot threes. We would play this shooting game every day after practice. It was me, Kobe, Brian Shaw, Mitch Richmond and Kurt Rambis. Kobe would lose every time. We would get to practice the next day and sure enough, Kobe would already be there shooting nothing but threes. Like clockwork, at the end of practice he'd say, "Let's play the game! I'm ready for you." And we would beat his ass again.
He would never stop. It was incredible. He practiced until one day, a couple months later, he finally won. If you literally said, "Kobe, I bet you can't make five in a row by dropping the ball and kicking it in from half court," that motherfucker would go out there and practice it until he could do it. And that's what people don't understand when they talk about champions — when they talk about a winner's mentality. Kobe's dedication to the game is unreal. And I mean that in the truest sense ... it was literally unbelievable. The common denominator in every championship team is the mentality that Kobe has, and the mentality that Hakeem had with me at that Christmas party. You have to be so obsessed with winning that you pull no punches with your teammates, even when you're in first place. Even when you're a defending champ.
Whenever I hear people crying about Kobe yelling at people in practice, or wondering whether or not LeBron is best friends with his teammates, I just roll my eyes. You know how many off-court conversations I had with the Zen-Master Phil Jackson in my entire time with the Lakers? One.
The tale is just another detail to add into the legend of Kobe Bryant's fabled work ethic and competitive drive. That obsessive nature is just one of the many reasons he separated himself from the pack and will go down as one of the greatest to ever do it.
Horry had plenty to say about his journey through the NBA, even going into why Rudy Tomjanovich was the best coach he ever played for. It's definitely an interesting read, which you can catch over on The Players' Tribune.