Nearly every person who has come across the late, great Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant has a memorable story about him, and that especially rings true for his fellow NBA players.
One player who Bryant took under his wing early on was Anthony Davis, whom he mentored during the Olympics in the summer after the young big was drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans. One thing that everyone always speaks of is Bryant’s toughness.
One of his most iconic moments that embodied that was when Bryant shot two free throws after tearing his Achilles before walking off the floor under his own power. Davis has a memory of his own that also shows the toughness and desire to win at all costs.
“The very first time in the NBA, I don’t remember. I remember it was either my first year or second year, we were playing in New Orleans, and it was a team with Kobe, Dwight and everything,” Davis began.
“He tore something in his right shoulder, I want to say his labrum or something. He was holding his shoulder after he drove to the basket and I was like, ‘Man, something is wrong with his shoulder.’ I was on the bench, timeout, and he comes back into the game. I’m like, ‘Man, he’s tough. He’s still going to continue to play.’
“He comes down the very next play, they throw the ball to him in the post and I think Dante Cunningham was guarding him. He takes two dribbles, does his shimmy and shoots the ball left-handed and it goes in. I just kind of stared at him down the court and looked at the bench. I was just amazed that a guy who is right-handed comes in and says, ‘OK, I’m just going to shoot and play left-handed.’ That’s one of my earliest memories in the league of Kobe.”
Davis was just a little off in his memory as the game he is speaking of occurred in 2015, his third season in the league and was well after Howard had left. Bryant also suffered a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, not a labrum injury.
But the moment itself is still mind blowing. That Kobe would even attempt to keep shooting left-handed is amazing, but that he made it just showed the skill level he possessed.
For his part, Davis couldn’t even bring himself to say anything to Kobe. “I didn’t say anything because I was on the bench,” he added. “The game kept going on. I didn’t say anything to him. I was just amazed that he would even attempt a shot like that.”
That wound up being the last game Kobe played that season. But it was possibly the most Kobe Bryant way to go out as even the use of his shooting arm couldn’t stop him from getting buckets.
LeBron James recalls ‘sense of awe’ playing against Kobe
For a lot of players, playing against an idol or someone you looked up to is an unbelievable moment. For many in the NBA today, Kobe was that player and many were just in awe to be able to take the floor with him, LeBron James included.
“Just being out on the floor with him, if you remember, he gave me a pair of his shoes when I was a junior in high school,” LeBron said.
“To be able to share the floor with him, for any kid who has aspirations or aspiring moments, it’s like a sense of awe of the grace that he played the game with and the passion and the determination to just go out and dominate you was something that I loved.”
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