Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson both came into the NBA in 1996, with Iverson as the No. 1 overall selection by the Philadelphia 76ers and Bryant the No. 13 overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets — later sent to the Lakers. The duo would eventually do battle in the 2001 NBA Finals, but their rivalry began long before that and likely long before Iverson was even aware of it.
In an essay for The Player’s Tribune, Bryant wrote about how he was obsessive and maniacal about studying Iverson after realizing how large the gap was between he and The Answer. Bryant said it started after a November night where Iverson scored 35 points on the Knicks, while Bryant played five minutes and had two points against the Rockets. This enraged Bryant to the point of flipping tables in his hotel room, inspiring him to work harder.
Then Iverson put 41 points on him in a March meeting between the Sixers and Lakers in 1999, and Bryant’s obsession with topping Iverson truly began.
“Working harder wasn’t enough,” wrote Bryant. “I had to study this man maniacally. I obsessively read every article and book I could find about AI. I obsessively watched every game he had played, going back to the IUPU All-American Game. I obsessively studied his every success, and his every struggle. I obsessively searched for any weakness I could find.
“I searched the world for musings to add to my AI Musecage. This led me to study how great white sharks hunt seals off the coast of South Africa. The patience. The timing. The angles.”