Kobe Bryant cycled through hundreds of teammates during his 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. But perhaps one of his most memorable teammates was Metta World Peace, who went by Ron Artest at the time they played together.
World Peace signed with the Lakers after they defeated the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals. He came in as a replacement of sorts for Trevor Ariza, who took his place on the Houston Rockets. While Ariza was certainly a valuable part of the 2009 championship team, World Peace provided an edge and toughness that Ariza couldn’t.
World Peace — in his own way — embodied the ‘Mamba Mentality,’ and it led to him and Bryant being great teammates during their time together. World Peace was a huge reason for the Lakers success in 2010.
When asked to reflect on his relationship with Bryant, World Peace said that while him and Bryant weren’t necessarily friends, there certainly was respect and ability to coexist, according to via CBSLA Sports Central:
“Kobe Bryant, when you meet that energy, with Metta World Peace energy, it’s like oil and water. It doesn’t mix. There’s no friendship, but there’s respect.”
World Peace spoke about his and Bryant’s competitive nature, and the bond it led to between them as teammates:
“Well, it’s never love. It’s never going to turn into love. It’s going to turn into execution. Because it’s hard for me to flip the switch (off). Even when I practice, if I’m on the opposite team, I’m coming at your neck at full speed because I’m so competitive. But the execution is the most important part.”
While it’s certainly an interesting development that World Peace and Bryant simply weren’t friends, it makes complete sense that their competitiveness would lead to a mutual respect. Both players simply loved to play and win, and it’s a part of what gave the 2010 team an edge.
It’s likely that competitiveness that allowed Bryant to trust World Peace in some of the biggest moments of the 2009-10 season, including the 3-pointer near the end of Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals.
Bryant and World Peace seemed like their love of basketball and their passion for being great at it was their only thing in common. Otherwise, this could’ve been a great friendship between a Lakers legend and one of the ultimate fan favorites in Lakers history.