In the season opener between the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets last year, former teammates Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard got into an altercation. After Howard’s elbow connected with Kobe, the five-time champion called him “soft.”
Despite suffering a blowout loss to end their eight-game road trip, Kobe and Howard exchanged hugs and briefly talked following the game.
With this being Kobe’s final season, he discussed the 2012-13 NBA season and how it was nothing personal with the center in terms of their relationship according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
“We’ll always be fine. My responsibility when Dwight and I played together was to get him to play his best basketball,” Bryant said. “That involves sometimes pushing buttons when guys don’t necessarily appreciate it at the time. As a leader, that’s your job and that’s your responsibility. It’s nothing personal. You just try to get the best out of him even if they don’t find the humor in that at the time.”
In response, Howard called his former teammate ‘one of the greatest players to ever play’ and hopes to have the same kind of reception when he retires, via Medina:
“He is one of the greatest players to ever play the game. He is just getting recognized for his accomplishments on the floor. All of us want to have that kind of reception when we’re about to finish our careers,” Howard said. “It makes you feel good knowing that the hard work you put in, that everybody around the world is fascinated and that they love it.”
It has been three seasons since they played together in Los Angeles, but there will continue to be storylines. After trading for Howard before the start of the 2012-13 NBA season, the Lakers were considered favorites to win the championship and he was considered to be the heir apparent.
However, Kobe and Howard had different personalities and ideas on how to win a championship. While the Lakers went 28-12 in the final 40 games of the season, Kobe suffered a ruptured Achilles against the Golden State Warriors and the Lakers eventually lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
Since Howard left for the Rockets, the Lakers have been rebuilding and have established a young core of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. With all three players showing their potential, it will be interesting to see if that is enough to attract free agents in the off-season and return to contention.