The competitiveness that drove Kobe Bryant to get two jerseys retired by the Los Angeles Lakers and made him the closest thing the NBA has ever seen to Michael Jordan will also likely lead the former NBA All-Star into the Hall of Fame.
That Bryant would reach that status was far from a certainty to anyone but himself when he was a 19-year-old All-Star going up against Michael Jordan in his first appearance in the exhibition. And how quickly Lakers fans fueled Bryant into the game left many outside of Los Angeles hoping Jordan would make him a sacrificial lamb.
Jordan largely did, going for 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds while leading the East to a 135-114 victory over the West.
But in his latest “Musecage” video, Bryant explained why the day was still memorable and meaningful to him, plus he prodded current All-Stars to take the game more seriously and as a means to gain a competitive advantage:
Stories like this are why Bryant is so revered by his fans. The maniacal competitiveness it would take to sacrifice himself in the All-Star Game defensively just to test Jordan for a theoretical NBA Finals matchup that never came to pass is quintessential Kobe, and it’s a large part of what made him so great.
It also might be his way of justifying getting lit up by Jordan in his own mind, but that explanation still ties back to Bryant’s competitiveness, and even somehow turning losses into wins in his mind. Either way, there will never be another player quite like him ever again.
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