As a Lakers fan, my high school days were spent living out the rise-and-fall of a dynasty. After watching them get trampled by the Spurs my freshman year, they went on an epic three-peat run (because, Shaq
and Kobe)—before imploding the following year, as I graduated (because, Shaq and Kobe).
As a JAY Z fan, those same years were spent watching my favorite rapper—thriving off the success of Vol. 2—deliver three of my favorite albums from his extensive catalog—Vol. 3, The Dynasty and The Blueprint.
The relation between the two? Well, nothing really. But if you ask Brian Shaw and Devean George—former teammates of Kobe Bryant—it helps describe how Kobe was off the court and how his approach to the game is much how he lives every aspect of his life.
After tonight’s battle with OKC, there’s only one more game in Kobe Bryant’s illustrious career. And with tributes flying in from every direction, it’s The Players’ Tribune who might just have my favorite thus far.
In a piece called “How We’ll Remember Kobe,” the Tribune sat down with former teammates Brian Shaw, Horace Grant, Ron Harper and Devean George to share a few stories about the future Hall of Fame’r. From crushing a certain player’s soul in a game of one-one to being “that guy” who wakes up at 5am to practice while his teammates slept, the four offered direct insight into the life and times of Kobe Bean Bryant during the Lakers’ historic three-peat.
Horace Grant, who was also a former teammate of Michael Jordan, compared the two legend’s cutthroat attitude when it came to competition.
In terms of pure competitiveness, it’s Jordan 1A and Kobe 1B. I played with both guys and I can tell you that for certain.
You know when the captains go to center court with the referees before a game, and everybody shakes hands for the cameras?
MJ would look you right in the eye when he was shaking your hand. Sometimes he would even smile. But while you were smiling, MJ would be thinking about how he’s going to put his foot on your neck. He was diabolical like that.
Kobe was different. He would come right up to you during the handshake and tell you he didn’t like you and that he was going to destroy you. Seriously, he wouldn’t just say it in the pregame, he would say it in the heat of battle. He didn’t care who you were. He’d say, “I can’t believe they’re putting you on me. Are you serious? You think you can guard me?” And he wasn’t joking. He meant it. And the defender knew he meant it. That’s the difference. He would plant that seed of doubt in their mind. And when you had that seed of doubt against Kobe, it was over.
A solid read throughout, the real gem from “How We’ll Remember Kobe,” though, is when Brian Shaw and Devean George discuss Kobe’s
obsession ability to memorize JAY Z lyrics.
Brian Shaw: I always tell people this story when they ask me about Kobe. We would always freestyle on the back of the bus. Whenever a new Jay-Z album came out, it was a big deal. Guys would get it Day One and be rapping their favorite songs. Maybe they knew the first few bars or the hook. Well, Kobe would be on the back of the bus rapping every single line of every single song the day after the album came out. I’m talking every lyric. It was genuinely amazing. Nobody could figure out how it was possible.
Devean George: It was incredible. It didn’t make sense. I was always wondering, How in the world is this guy learning the lyrics so quickly? We’re all buying this stuff right when it comes out. We’re all listening to it. I don’t know the lyrics yet. How do you? It just came out 24 hours ago, bro!
I would picture him sitting up all night with his headphones on, scribbling the lyrics over and over in a notebook like my kids do when they study for an English test. The damn album just came out yesterday, and he knows it front to back.
That’s when I realized, maybe this guy is a genius. Either that, or he was getting Jay to send him advance copies. Either way, that’s a little window into Kobe. He was obsessed with greatness.
Man, I’ve gotta find out his secret. As much as I love hip hop and the fact that it’s my day-to-day job, my brain just doesn’t function the way it needs to in order to memorize rhymes.
Sure, I can rap along here and there. But on the spot, with a full verse to recite? Yeah, right! I have a better chance beating Kobe in one-on-one. Which, if we were to ask J.R. Rider, is pretty much impossible.
Brian Shaw: They played to 10 by ones. Kobe just absolutely demolished him.
Ron Harper: Kobe destroyed him.
Brian Shaw: This is 22-year-old Kobe. Crazy athletic. Unlimited stamina. I mean, he kicked his ass. He pulled out everything in his bag — dunk, up-and-under, pull-up, crossover.
Devean George: Fadeaway. Left hand. Right hand. Blowing by him.
Brian Shaw: We were on the sidelines gassing it up. People are laughing, yelling, “Hey J.R., be careful what you wish for.”
Ron Harper: Guys were waving white towels, yelling, “Stop the beatdown, please! Please stop!”
Horace Grant: J.R. wanted to fight everybody in the gym.
If you’re a Kobe fan, do yourself a favor and, read “How We’ll Remember Kobe” over at The Player’s Tribune.