The impending retirement of Kobe Bryant gives us a full season to look back at his spectacular 20-year career. While this can be tiring when it completely overshadows the teams actually competing for a title, it’s also quite fun, especially when opposing NBA players are asked about their thoughts on Mamba before every final game in [insert NBA city here]. On Wednesday, it’ll be in Boston, where Mamba may or may not receive an ovation from a crowd that loathes the team he’s been repping for this whole career.
Celtics hybrid forward Evan Turner was one of those players Tuesday, and he mentioned to ESPN.com’s Chris Forsberg the tall tales of intimidation his Philadelphia teammates told him about Kobe when he was a rookie in 2011.
Before the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers met on New Year’s Eve 2010, Evan Turner had teammates telling him horror stories about playing against Kobe Bryant for the first time.
Philly’s veterans implored the 22-year-old rookie, “Don’t look at him in his eyes! Just leave him alone!”
That’s either some expert level trolling by Turner’s teammates on that Sixers squad, or Bryant’s pathologically competitive persona worked better than we thought in the late aughts.
When Turner was a rookie, he only faced Kobe once — it was the lockout-shortened 2011 season. In that game, Bryant dropped 33 on an efficient 13-of-24 from the field as the Lakers got the 102-98 win. Turner, for his part, was all over the court on his way to 12 points (5/13), six boards, four dimes and three steals. But the biggest thing the then-rookie remembers about Bryant wasn’t his icy demeanor or a frosty psych-out whispered in his ear. No, it was how nice and supportive Bryant was to him.
“He was super nice to me,” Turner told ESPN. “I had teammates that said, ‘When you go out there, don’t look at him in his eye. Don’t talk to him or anything; it’s going to give him an edge.’ Like he’s some type of pit bull or something. … Then he came up to me and patted me on my back. He was like, ‘How you doing? How’s your mom?’ I was like, ‘She’s alright.'”
Awww, Kobe, you ol’ softie. That’s so sweet. Evan Turner really got a chance to look into the void of Vino’s eyes.
We love how Bryant’s turned from NBA villain to the effusive uncle who won’t shut up about his niece’s “Yo Yo Ma-esque” cello recital.