Over the nearly two decades in which Kobe Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers, he tortured just about every fan base at some point or another. So, for his 40th birthday, we figured we’d spend it having some fans of his favorite targets to look back on some of the moments that made them absolutely hate Kobe.
Just a heads up: You might want a cup of water because the amount of salt in this piece is going to make you thirsty.
Phoenix Suns, represented by my boss, Seth Pollack (SB Nation)
(Upon further review, I’m realizing trolling those in charge of my employment might not be the smartest move but hey I’m committed now let’s do this)
Pollack: The 2010 Phoenix Suns were the best team of the Steve Nash era. Their run to the Western Conference Finals was an impressive display of basketball and there was real hope in Arizona that they could finally get past the hated Lakers and get back to the NBA Finals. But Kobe had other plans. Despite facing peak defensive Grant Hill, Kobe repeatedly hit impossible shots. My nightmares are filled with Mamba draining 17-foot fadeaways with Grant’s hand in his face. Ugh.
But when I need cheering up, I just remember that time in 2006 when he quit on the Lakers in Game 7 after blowing a 3-1 series lead. :)
San Antonio Spurs, represented by Quixem Ramirez (News 4 San Antonio)
I’m a Spurs fan, so I grew up really really really hating Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers (lasted in that order because Shaq was the best player on those teams). For much of my childhood I watched Spurs-Lakers from the couch until my dad won two tickets to a Spurs-Lakers game — we could never afford to shell out $100 each on nosebleed tickets — and I was so, so amped. I don’t know what year this was or what was at stake or if this even happened like my memory recalls, but I vividly remember booing Kobe before he hit a big corner 3-pointer in front of the Spurs bench. I still don’t wanna talk about it.
Happy not birthday Kobe
There’s no way to know whether this is the game in question, but juuuuuust in case.
Dallas Mavericks, represented by Kirk Henderson (Mavs Money Ball)
December 6, 2002 featured one of the single greatest comebacks in Lakers season history over my Dallas Mavericks and they were led by an incredible performance from one Kobe Bryant, who poured in 21 of his 27 in the final frame.
Sixteen years later, I can’t remember the specifics. I was finishing up my first semester of college at Pepperdine University near the heart of Laker fandom. We were still a year off from the Lakers beating the Mavericks so badly in their new Silver uniforms that we never saw them again.. I remember feeling SO happy entering that fourth quarter. A road win, against the Lakers? Huge. 88-61 felt insurmountable and... it wasn’t. I don’t remember any particular Kobe shot or exchange, but the feeling of horror and dread that overcomes you when your team collapses is hard to explain yet everyone reading this knows exactly what the hell I’m talking about.
That was the first game where the Laker dread took root. In 2002 the Mavericks were in the midst of their third season of winning basketball in a decade so fighting to belong really mattered then. Getting stomped during a three-peat felt like a right of passage but this was something different. This one hurt.
Go ahead and skip to about 2:39 for the Kobe moment. He turns Nash over and then, well you know.
Minnesota Timberwolves, represented by Tim Faklis (The Athletic)
In 2003, the Timberwolves had notched their first top-four seed in franchise history. And despite the excitement surrounding the progressive improvement of Kevin Garnett and the rest of the squad, they still found themselves playing the Lakers in the first round.
And while the Wolves would build a 2-1 lead early in the series, the series felt over in Game 5, specifically in the third quarter, when Kobe threw down a 360 baseline dunk over the entire damn team. The Lakers had already built a 16-point lead in that game and were well on their way to a 3-2 lead, but that dunk was the gut punch that made the Wolves’ fate clear.
To this day, I have no idea how he avoided hitting his head on the backboard and still finished this dunk. Insane.
Portland Trail Blazers, represented by Danny Marang (Blazers Edge)
The 2000 Western Conference Finals…otherwise known as the closest I’ve ever been to buying NBA Finals tickets. Portland is up big, I’m jumping up and down and I’m basically this guy: “We going to the Fiiiinaaaals.” I boot up AOL, that lovely screech rips through the air and 5 minutes later I’m looking to score tickets to my first NBA Finals. But, much like Sidney Deane and his promise to go to Sizzler, it was not to be. Kobe Bryant and that stupid fist pump/lip biting combo snuffed out my dreams of seeing a title in my formative years.
I hate you Kobe.
beating you, Danny.
For a little LFR Classic, @LakerFilmRoom took a look back at the Lakers’ game seven comeback against the Blazers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals, and why it was choke job from Portland rather than being rigged.https://t.co/VN2JjMS8cs pic.twitter.com/qO6Eh0BqV8— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) August 14, 2018
Sacramento Kings, represented by Greg Wissinger (Sactown Royalty)
It’s cliche for a Kings fan to complain about referees, especially when it comes to the Kings and Lakers. But the moment that always sticks with me is Kobe elbowing Mike Bibby in the face, drawing blood, and a foul being called...on Bibby. Kobe was a tremendous player and I loved to hate him his entire career. He was the perfect villain. I still hate him.
Looks like a good call from my angle. If anything, Bibby’s face should have been given a flagrant for potentially hurting Kobe’s shooting elbow.
Anyway, this is my personal favorite.
Boston Celtics, represented by John Karalis (Locked on Celtics)
Legends don’t have to be 100% factual. In fact, some legends are better when they’re not.
January 31, 2007 will go down in history as one of Boston’s weirder days. Outside the Boston Garden, the city was gripped by a stupid panic caused by viral marketing campaign made out of homemade Lite-Brites. By the time that had subsided, whatever Celtics fans (a) still felt like battling post-blockade traffic and (b) still felt like going to watch a bad C’s team play a good Lakers team made their way into arena.
The stage was set. Paul Pierce’s season was already over. Tony Allen’s season had ended a couple of weeks prior when he tore his ACL on an after-the-foul dunk attempt. There was no duel to be had and there was defensive stopper to slow Kobe Bryant down.
He went off for 43, giving the Celtics their 13th of what would eventually become 18 straight losses. As if a loss at home to the Lakers wasn’t enough, the remaining Lakers fans had, by the end of the game, worked their way down to the lower bowl and started chanting “MVP, MVP!”
Legend has it that Kobe was so sublime, Boston fans were captivated enough to chant for him. Lakers fans still use it as anti-Celtics ammunition to this day.
It doesn’t matter that the clip includes the announcer saying “a lot of Lakers fans still left here” or that the Celtics fans still in the building tried to drown them out… all that matters is Kobe was there, in Boston, with the chants.
And if you think this is some Boston fan trying to explain it away, just understand that the false premise behind the legend only makes the legend worse for us. When someone says “but Kobe got MVP chants in Boston…” it makes us even angrier than if it had been Boston fans doing it. We have the impulse to “well, actually” everyone who brings it up.
It doesn’t matter, though. The damage is done. We can never explain it away. No one listens to, or cares for, the “well, actually.” Kobe got MVP chants at the Garden, which is the only kernel of truth to the legend, and the only part of the legend that matters.
Happy 40th, Kobe.