Every NBA fan remembers how things developed between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard when they were teammates as part of the Los Angeles Lakers and later when Howard took his talents to the Houston Rockets.

It was during his time with the Rockets when the big man and the guard starred one of the most memorable scuffles in the association in recent times. During a game between the Lakers and Rockets, Kobe and Howard went at it and the five-time NBA champion called Superman ‘soft’, something that has transcended through our days.

Howard recently had the chance to sit and discuss a variety of topics with Kristine Leahy, including the incident with the Black Mamba. He explained that five years ago when that happened, he hated Bryant for the remark, but now says they “were on two different levels mentally.”

Per Complex (via FS1‘s “Fair Game with Kristine Leahy”):

“I just think we were on two different levels mentally,” Howard said. “He hadn’t never seen a person like me. Someone who could enjoy basketball but at the same time not be so [serious]. That’s not me.”

The two players had completely different personalities and that showed during the time they shared at the Staples Center. In the end, the Lakers didn’t have more remedy than to trade Dwight after just one season.

“I kinda hated him for saying that because I looked at it the wrong way,” Howard said when he recounted Kobe’s comment. “I think he was more so talking about my mentality… not how I am on the court. And I didn’t realize that because all the noise surrounding him saying I was soft. And I hated him. I hated him for that moment.”

“Everybody reaches different levels of maturity at different times,” Howard told Leahy. “I think at that time I was ignorant to the level that he was at. So I appreciate you, Kobe. Thank you for saying I was soft. I didn’t realize what you meant until now.”

Even though he’s not as coveted as he once was, Howard has demonstrated he has grown up as a person and part of that was because of his back and forth with Kobe both as teammates and rivals. Perhaps he’s not the dominant player he used to be, but D-12 can make a good leader now for whichever team he gets to play with next season, something unthinkable during his time with the Purple and Gold.

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