In this day and age of Kobe Bryant as a well-respected, expletive-spewing, torch-passing elder statesman of the NBA, it’s easy to forget that he was a total punk when he came in to the NBA. Well, maybe not easy to forget, but that Kobe persona has been kind of lost in the ether with all the championships, lawsuits and critical adoration that has followed the Lakers star since he entered the league. Way back when, he was just a little snot who acted like he was just barely out of high school, if you can imagine that.

That’s why it’s good to remember, sometimes, just how far Kobe Bryant has come during his 14-year career. This story from Phil Jackson certainly helps. From the OC Register:

Jackson told the story of arranging a first meaningful meeting between Bryant and Michael Jordan in the 2000-01 season, which was filled with Kobe-driven friction after the first championship the previous season. Jackson’s goal was for the learned Jordan to get the eager Bryant “to understand he didn’t have to stray outside the offense” and the Zen idea to “wait till the game presents itself.”

Jackson said Bryant’s first comment to Jordan, however, was: “I can take you one-on-one.”

Yep, that sounds like 22-year-old Kobe. (To be fair, that also sounds like 32-year-old Kobe, but it sounds even more like the younger one.) Of course Kobe’s going to say that to Michael Jordan when his coach has set up a special meeting in order to help Kobe learn the importance of playing with his teammate. Duh. This is Kobe Bryant we’re talking about here.

Nowadays, any time you hear about Kobe Bryant being a jerk, it comes along with tales of his great work ethic, how he’s won five championships and how he’s been able to remain an elite player for a long time despite playing more basketball than anyone should really be playing. Now, there are caveats and justifications.

Back then, when Kobe was a rising star rather than an established one, he was the kind of dude to tell the greatest basketball player ever that he could beat him one-on-one. It’s that confidence that made him as wonderful as he is today, but it’s the same confidence that made him the most polarizing player of his generation. A lot of people hate Kobe to this day because he was pretty arrogant when he entered the league.

But really, if you still want to hate the early-2000′s version of Kobe Bryant in 2011, do so because he’s probably the reason Michael Jordan ever joined the Wizards. After all, this very conversation is the exact kind of thing that would drive Jordan to return to the NBA at age 38 just to prove he could beat Kobe Bryant one-on-one.

Thanks for nothing, Kobe.

Comments (15)

  1. That was the year that Kobe was famously passing up on shots in the third and fourth quarters in order to even scores, so that he could play the hero in the final minutes.

    2000-01 was a mess.

  2. Makes you wonder whom Jordan approached and said I can beat you one on one to when he was in his early years. This is the competitive first that made Jordan and makes Kobe great. You may say its arrogance and in part it is, but its a lot of confidence too.

  3. Haters Gona hate haha

  4. A Kobe-MJ article… 15 comments or more?

  5. Kobe’s only 32 – easy tiger.

  6. Good find Trey, this is the Kobe Bryant that I could never get enough of.

    Give me a young Kobe Bryant vs. young Larry Hughes battle and I’ll be way more content than I should be.

  7. And Michael Jordan is some kind of sweetheart? Ego for ego, these guys both make Kanye look like Gandhi

  8. I could take both of them one-1-one ….at the sametime

  9. This is the sort of article that makes me wish that i had a time machine. we need to watch a young kobe’s hoop get raped by mj’s basketballs. after that game, his wife might need a new ring.

  10. funny this article just pops up, i just watched MJ’s final staple centre game “wizards vs lakers – 2003″ kobe lit it up.

  11. The first meeting between VC and MJ had VC ask for MJ’s phone number.

    Kobe has always had the same competitive fire that MJ had. VC is a boy in this conversation.

  12. looking at how VC’s career went, maybe you canadians should just let it go.

  13. Very weird comments…

    I can imagine Phil Jackson face-palming when he heard this.
    II mean: the guy arranges a meeting for Kobe to learn team-game, and the thing he focuses on is his 1-on-1 prowess…
    I’m shocked people only react about his so-called “arrogance”, and not about his lack of discipline and will to win bbal games, not 1-on-1 games.

    He shouldn’t give a shit if he could beat MJ 1-on-1 (which he prolly couldn’t: I imagine MJ would take him to the block while Kobe would hoist up 25-footers).

    And telling a 38-yers-old man you can take him 1-on-1 is NOT ambitious, even when it’s MJ.

    That’s actually the reason I always disliked Kobe: it seems it’s more important to him to be the best player on the floor than to win the game. It just happens that this helps him win some games.

  14. [...] would agree to that all-white photo shoot. No one would meet Michael Jordan and tell him that he could beat him one-on-one. No one with less rhythm would record this song, let alone one called “Thug Poet.”Let’s wind [...]

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