The basketball world is spending Monday celebrating Kobe Bryant Day (8/24), one day after the Lakers legend’s birthday.
Multiple Philly stars paid tribute to Bryant this week, honoring the Philly native’s first birthday since his tragic passing in late January, from Eagles center Jason Kelce to Phillies left fielder Bryce Harper.
And on Monday, a truly iconic Philly voice chimed in with his own rememberance of Kobe: Allen Iverson.
Iverson penned a one-of-a-kind letter to Bryant over on the Players Tribune in a way that only Iverson can. He talks about their on-court battles, the way they inspired each other to be great, and plenty more.
I really loved one story Iverson from the stars’ 1996-97 rookie season.
The Lakers had already visited Philadelphia back in late November – Los Angeles won, 100-88, and Iverson went six for 27 – but Sixers made their first trip to L.A. a month later, for the last game of the calendar year, and the two young guns were able to find time to hang out.
Enter Iverson’s memory of his formative first pro trip to the West Coast:
Remember when I came out to L.A. for the first time our rookie year? You picked me up at the hotel and we went out for some food, and you asked me what I was getting up to later.
I said I was going to the club. I mean, we in L.A.! I’m going to the club, Kobe. Come on, man.
And what did you say?
“I’m going back to the gym.”
You’re probably the only dude in the history of the game where the mystique wasn’t exaggerated. The Mamba was no myth, man. It didn’t even do you justice. One, two, three in the morning, we knew where you were.
Even at 18 years old, Bryant had that Mamba Mentality. That’s some next-level dedication.
And what’s remarkable about it is where the two players were in their respective careers.
During the ensuing game, Iverson scored 21, Bryant scored zero, and the Lakers won by 13. No one would’ve blamed Bryant for seeing that he didn’t have a role on that year’s team, and going out with Iverson to at least have some fun.
But that just was not Kobe’s way. He knew that, if he wanted to become The Guy for the Lakers, he had to take advantage of every moment. And that’s what he did, each day, until he was unstoppable.
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