These days Kobe Bryant is viewed as arguably one of the greatest to ever play for the Los Angeles Lakers and step foot on an NBA floor. When he first came into the league, however, it was a completely different story.
Young Kobe was viewed as a cocky, arrogant teenager who rubbed some the wrong way. Even as the Lakers won championships, there were reported feuds with Shaquille O’Neal and other veterans on the team.
The brashness that came with Bryant is something that longtime teammate, and fellow rookie at the time, Derek Fisher witnessed firsthand.
In an appearance on The Full 48 Podcast with Howard Beck, Fisher spoke about Kobe’s confidence as a rookie and suggested that some just didn’t realize that Kobe had goals in mind for himself and was hellbent on accomplishing them:
“I do think he had those things, for sure, in mind. I don’t think we all understood that initially. So, imagine not knowing that about someone, and he’s already seeing himself as, ‘I’m going to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest player to ever play. I’m going to make sure that I play on this many championship teams, I’m going to make sure that I score this many points, I’m going to make sure I accomplish these goals.’”
Fisher added that without realizing Kobe’s goals and what he was working towards, it was easy for Bryant to come off as arrogant:
“Without knowing that, somebody walks into a room with all these assumptions and all of these things they’re going to do, but nobody else knows. It came off to everybody else as a level of arrogance, and aloof and above everybody. That was kind of a strange for a guy that was a rookie. It just didn’t make a lot of sense. To me, that’s what rubbed a lot of people, who didn’t get to know him first, the wrong way.”
Fast forward 20 years and it’s clear Kobe knew from the moment he came into the league what he wanted to accomplish. And he refused to let anyone or anything prevent him from reaching those goals.
It may have come off as arrogant to some, but as Fisher noted, it’s because people just didn’t know Kobe. Ultimately, very few would get to know Kobe as well as Fisher did, which is why the pair won five championships together.
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