Kobe Bryant, like almost any legendary athlete, has a competitive streak that borders on unhealthy. No matter the sport, you can find this person. The best beer pong player in the world probably has stories told about how he always insisted on practicing chugging warm Natural Light from a Solo cup on off-days in order to be better prepared for game conditions.
But enough about me.
Nick Van Exel was a teammate of Bryant’s and saw first-hand the work ethic that helped make him one of the all-time greats. But that sort of drive, especially in a laid-back practice setting, can rub people the wrong way. Van Exel told SB Nation’s Silver Screen & Roll a story about Bryant that encapsulates the man pretty well.
“I do remember one time we were having a shootaround, and in the shootaround we were just walking through the plays, just trying to figure out the defenses as you’re walking through them,” said Van Exel. “And [Kobe] was going really really hard at Eddie Jones, and we all just started laughing. And he was the only one not laughing, like the coaches was laughing, everybody.
“[Kobe] was not laughing. So finally, Del [Harris] had to tell him ‘we’re not going 100 percent yet!’ ”
The one good thing about a farewell tour — besides inexplicably beating maybe the best regular-season team in NBA history — is inside stories about the player saying so long. Hopefully Shaquille O’Neal can be swayed to tell his stories between now and the end of the season.