Lakers News: Shaquille O’Neal Names Favorite Kobe Bryant Moment

Long before Kobe Bryant struck fear in his opponents or won five championships, he was a rookie simply looking to establish himself on an otherwise experienced Los Angeles Lakers roster. Bryant didn’t play much in his first year, which frustrated him but ultimately became something he deemed a valuable learning lesson.

Although Bryant had played sparingly under former head coach Del Harris, he was in the heat of the battle against the Utah Jazz in Game 5 of the 1997 Western Conference semifinals. The Lakers needed a win in order to avoid being eliminated.

They forced the Jazz to overtime, where Bryant’s blend of youth and confidence made for a deflating series of possessions as he shot the Lakers out of a game with one airball after another.

While it was a low moment for the rookie, O’Neal explained why that’s a favorite of his when reflecting on the illustrious career his former teammate had, via Spectrum SportsNet:

“My fondest memory of him was him having the guts in that Utah series to take those last three shots. Because I missed about 30 free throws in the game, I didn’t want to shoot it. Eddie didn’t, Nick didn’t want to shoot it. He shot [four] airballs, and if you can remember, I went to him and said hey, ‘All these people that are laughing at you, they will fear you one day because I know you’re going to hit more game-winners than you’ll miss.'”

Bryant himself also called that game a learning experience that proved pivotal to his career. He shot a total of four airballs in the 98-93 elimination loss, with three coming in overtime.

Bryant would go on to have more rough moments in big games, but none are more infamous than his rookie performance against the Jazz. And of course, the future Hall-of-Famer is most remembered for the clutch shots and game-winners he did make in the thousands of games that followed.

Some of which came at the expense of Utah, including eliminating them in the playoffs en route to winning a championship.

WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE DISCUSSION? CHECK OUT THE NEW LAKERS NATION FORUM CLUB

You May Also Like

VIDEO: Basketball Fans On The Clippers Playing In The 2015 NBA Finals

The NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers began…

Lakers Nation Podcast: The Losing Streak Is Over, Plus-Should LA Trade For Nerlens Noel?

The Los Angeles Lakers have ended their eight-game losing streak with a 100-89 win over the Philadelphia 76ers and the latest episode of the Lakers Nation Podcast breaks down all of the action…

Danny Green: Lakers ‘Need’ Avery Bradley, Dwight Howard When NBA Season Resumes

The NBA is nearing its return as the 22 teams selected to participate in the remainder of the 2019-20 season are…

Lakers News: Kobe Bryant Says ‘The Tendon Is Fine’

After Kobe Bryant pushed himself during the China trip and took a…