Kobe Bryant believed in his abilities since he was a rookie, but asking Shaquille O’Neal to get the rebound was a bit much.
Kobe Bryant was drafted by the LA Lakers straight out of high school in 1996. In the same year they traded for Shaquille O’Neal, laying down the foundation for their future dynasty.
However the team did not have immediate success as Shaq needed time to adjust while Bryant was too young. The 18 year old rookie saw limited minutes in his first season however his hunger to be great was clear as day.
Kobe had supreme confidence in himself and sometimes it passed into the realms of overconfidence. This was on full display in the first game against the Jazz in the 97 playoffs when he shot four consecutive air-balls in the clutch and the Lakers lost. Several such incidents later in his career left Kobe with a notorious reputation for not passing the ball in clutch situations.
(2008) Kobe Bryant goes off in the 4th quarter and leads the Lakers to the NBA Finals.pic.twitter.com/rQ7ae0uxrs
— Hoop History (@HoopHistory44) October 7, 2021
When Kobe stopped passing the ball to Shaq after he kept missing his free throws
Shaquille O’Neal was one of the most dominant force in NBA history but he was dreadful at one thing, free throws. Teams were so frustrated with Shaq’s dominance that they invented the Hack-a-Shaq. They kept fouling him consistently in late game situations and he kept missing his free throws.
Kobe Bryant in an interview recalled a hilarious exchange revolving around Shaq’s inability to shoot free throws. Bryant said
“Shaq kept going to the free throw line and he kept missing them. So when he threw the ball out to me, I am not throwing that s*** back into him. So I kept shooting them right”.
Bryant adds, “Shaq said ‘Dude, you got to throw me the ball’, I said, ‘F*** that, Get it off the rebound if I miss bro’. I was 18 yrs old man, 18 yrs. Must have been out of my damn mind.”
Even though Kobe was just an 18 yr old rookie at the time he had the ‘Mamba Mentality’ in him. The Shaq and Kobe Lakers went on to 3-peat and became one of the most successful teams in NBA history.