For decades, the NBA has been a star league. But even among the stars there is an exclusive club. Russell and Dr. J. Bird and Magic. Jordan. Kobe. They are all part of a select group that has paved the way for the modern NBA superstar. And in Icons Club: The Evolution of the NBA SuperstarHall of Fame reporter Jackie McMullan explains how some even shared secrets with each other along the way.
Here is an excerpt from 7 serieswho explores perhaps the most complex relationship at the Icons Club: the relationship between Shaquille O’Neill and Kobe Bryant. Here we emphasize Bryant’s determination to learn all he could from his hero Michael Jordan.
Charles Barkley says Kobe Bryant was always treated with respect when their paths crossed, but it was clear to him that the child was planning to go alone.
“He has always been cordial. Every time I saw him, ”says Barclay. “But you know … you’ve read stories about how Kobe goes to a restaurant, his teammates sit at a table together, he goes to another table. He was not interested in making friends with people. “
Now we know it wasn’t quite so. Kobe’s pursuit of the title went hand in hand with another special trick: his charm with Michael Jordan. Bryant began to imitate his movements, studying his approach. It became an obsession.
That too, says Shaquille O’Neill, has become for the guys on the team an even more reason to tease him.
“We noticed that everything he did was like Michael. From movements, walks, conversations, ”says O’Neill. “It was like a long joke. Every time he did something, we said, “Damn it.” One day he got sick while playing, and we said, “Damn, Mike, is this the flu game, Mike?”
The prologue to this podcast was about Kobe’s amazing relationship with Jordan. We haven’t talked about it in a long time, so I want to remind you how it happened.
In 1998, in his second season, 19-year-old Kobe was selected to the starting lineup of the West team at the All-Star Game, although he has not even been a starting lineup for his team. He fired after Jordan.
And, Jordan tells me, he was ready.
He was going to come after me. And I told everyone, I said, “Listen, I know this young guy is coming to me from Los Angeles, he’s coming to me – and I’m not going to hold back.” So in that sense I feel I have to protect something. Of course, in the game it was a competition. It was almost like looking in the mirror, in a way, you know why I wanted to play something less? Why would I want to play someone less? I want to go for someone I respect and want to challenge.
Kobe caught the attention of demanding Icons everywhere with his performances that night, including a 360 dunk and a transitional dribble behind. He scored 18 points in 22 minutes, but Jordan, who was sick with the flu, scored 23 points, eight assists, 6 rebounds and an MVP in the game.
Despite the fact that this match caused a lot of chatter, the key moment in their relationship came two months earlier, when the Bulls played with the Lakers, and Bryant bounced off the bench and scored 33 points in 29 minutes.
However, what impressed Jordan the most was his zero revs.
MJ, who scored 36 points, was surprised that after he burned the kid by turning on the post, Kobe started asking him detailed questions about the course as the game went on.
After that, Jordan heard Kobe say the same words that Dr. J. told him 12 years ago: “If you need anything, just call …”
Kobe did. Often.
The following season, NBA players were blocked, and Bryant stuffed Jordan at any time of the day or night, sometimes even at two or three o’clock at night. Jordan took turns having fun and getting annoyed.
“At first he was an irritant, but then, secondly, it happened,‘ Man, that’s a sense of respect, ’and I respect him for that, and from now on I’ll do whatever I want. can help him. “
There were times, Jordan admits, when he questioned his decision to help the child. This was something he had not done before. He always believed that if you want to become a member of the Icons Club, you have to figure it out yourself.
I lay down in my bed after talking to him and said, “Man, man, I mean it’s really cool.” But still I don’t know if I could ever do that if I give out information from someone. Sometimes I thought, “Why am I giving out all this information that he will use against me?” No matter how I started the conversation, he knew the answer. I didn’t tell him anything he didn’t know. I think I have more or less confirmed it.
Jordan shared small details, emphasizing the importance of a broad position, or how to secretly hook a player into a post.
The only thing I gave him that I felt sorry for – but again, I appreciated – was his turn. He learned about my move. He has learned this to such an extent that he will use it tirelessly, especially if you know that you have a double team. … I was very proud to see how he used it, although he didn’t do much against me.
Jordan’s advice to young Kobe included creating oily skin with his teammates. It was not a contest for popularity, he recalled. Become a leader. Feel free to encourage the players who need it. Be relentless before that.