Kobe Bryant made a strong impression even before he made it to the NBA. The Black Mamba was seen as one of the best young players in the US before the 1996 NBA draft, which granted him workouts with some interesting teams. In the end, the Los Angeles Lakers traded for Bryant on draft night, starting a great relationship.
Things didn't start the best way, though, as Kobe had to fight hard to get some playing minutes. After that, his toughness earned him a reputation of being hard-nosed if that meant he would get the win. Kobe's personality and work ethic made him one of the most respected players in the league, but that respect also came with some bad comments about him.
The narrative of Kobe being a selfish player has been around for a while, but those who played with him know that Bryant was nothing like that. In fact, Gary Payton recently debunked this idea, explaining how Bryant wanted to be better every day, something that selfish players don't do.
“This kid was a competitor. That’s all he was, and that’s all he wanted to do. He wanted to be great, and that’s what he became,” Payton said. “If Kobe was selfish and all that, why would he always go to the veterans and ask them what can he do to get better? Selfish players don’t do that.”
“He was a player that wanted to be better. He always asked me what to do. The year he asked me how to play defense and he made the defensive team every year after that. I told him how to be that.”
Kobe knew he had to learn from the best to be the best. He modeled his game after Michael Jordan and once he mastered that; he became a huge legend in the league. He asked Payton how to improve his defense and then became one of the best defenders in the league.
It is true that he always demanded the best from his teammates, but Kobe always tried to inspire them to give him that, their best. You could agree with his methods or not, but there's no doubt that he always tried to be better and take those with him on the same route.