It’s well known that Kobe Bryant was one of the most competitive players to ever suit up in the NBA, and there are very few places that has been on display more than early on in his matchup with Lakers teammate Pau Gasol and the Spanish National Team while Bryant was playing for Team USA during the Gold Medal Game at the 2008 Olympics.
In the first few minutes of the game, Gasol attempted to set a screen on Bryant, who plowed through him at full force, knocking him to the ground and standing over him as Gasol looked up, appearing to be slightly bewildered by the man he just went to the NBA Finals with trucking him without a second thought.
The clip is pretty incredible:
It’s been almost 12 years since then, and during an interview with current Lakers guard Danny Green and co-host Harrison Sanford on the “Inside the Green Room” podcast, Gasol was asked about the memory, and he had a few laughs while remembering his late teammate’s competitive fire:
“It’s a great clip, it’s a great moment. It really puts in an image or a clip, how Kobe approached games, basketball, competition, and how he was just sending a message to me and to his teammates. He deliberately did that, and I’m sure he thought about that even before the game, or the day before the game. Thinking like ‘first chance I get, I’m gonna into this (guy’s) chest and I’m just gonna put him on his ass, and that’s what it’s gonna be.’
“He never tried to get around the screen. He just went right through me and said ‘I’ll take the foul, it’s fine, but I’m gonna send a message that this is what’s up.’ It just set the tone.
“It was great, because I remember him telling me that he told Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, ‘just beat the crap out of him. All game long, be extra physical with him, just wear him out. Just every chance you get, hit him, hit him, hit him.’ And that’s how he showed them, ‘this is how you hit him. Let’s take him out.’ It’s a great clip.”
Gasol is a good sport, and the clip really does sum up the cutthroat competitiveness that made Bryant a Hall-of-Famer. From knocking Gasol over in the gold medal game to hanging the hardware he won from it in Gasol’s locker to motivate him the next season, there was nothing Bryant wouldn’t do to try and impart a little extra edge to whoever his teammates were at the time. It’s a piece of what made him so great, and a big part of why so many around the world had so much reverence for his approach.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.