I never understood the sentiment that bitter rivals couldn’t become teammates. Kobe Bryant destroyed that myth, first playing with Ron Artest (who once looked ready to face off in the Octagon against the Mamba), then recruiting Raja Bell and then finally settling on Matt Barnes. The old memories evaporated when they joined up. Respect was earned. If Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen can become functioning teammates, anyone can.
I say this because you go hard against people you respect, and more often than not, those people you respect are friends, or at least become your friends on account of your personal battles. Growing up, I went so hard at my boys we often ended the day not speaking to each other. It meant more, or at least it felt like it did. A game of 21 became more serious than just… a game of 21.
Go hard at someone you don’t know and afterwards, you’re catching dap or a quick nod of the head. The next time you meet on the court, oh it’s on even more.
So what Kobe Bryant recently said concerning Derek Fisher doesn’t surprise me. Not one bit. The Lakers will be hosting Fisher’s new team, Oklahoma City, next Thursday on the backend of a nationally televised TNT doubleheader. If you thought Thunder/Laker games had a decidedly “Friday night in high school against your rival” feel before, now the atmosphere becomes even better with Fisher returning to Los Angeles in light blue and orange.
What did Bryant have to say about that? You can probably guess. Wrote Dave McMenamin of ESPNLA.com:
“Look, we don’t get five championships by being sympathetic towards each other and kissing each other’s a– during the game,” Bryant said Wednesday when asked about the Lakers’ upcoming game against the Thunder next week. “I’m going to demolish him. He understands that. If he switches off on me in the post, there’s going to be problems. I’m sure he’ll put an elbow right in my back, and that’s why we love each other.”
Bryant admitted he wishes Fisher all the best, but I can envision a meeting between the two when they’re 55 and graying, and the lil’ spark plug who never came close to making an All-Star Team comes walking into the room and starts flaunting his six rings while Bryant only has enough to decorate one hand.
Fisher’s actually closer to a championship now than he was in L.A., and I think that’ll do nothing but fuel these two former teammates.
At the end of the day, that means one thing: compelling basketball.
What do you expect to see when these two meet up?
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