Earning the respect of Kobe Bryant was no easy matter. Within the first 10 years of his career, Bryant had accomplished so much that he didn't need to give every competitor respect without them earning it. But if you were able to withstand his onslaught, you would earn his respect.
One player who experienced similar fortunes was Matt Barnes. Barnes infamously tried to intimidate Kobe by faking a pass in his face, but Bryant never flinched.
In fact, Barnes revealed recently that he wanted to throw the ball in Kobe's face, but his arms instinctively stopped it. But the two had an intense duel during that game, one which would change Barnes' career forever.
In the summer of 2010, Barnes was part of one of the greatest free-agent classes in NBA history. He received a phone call from Pat Riley, who was the president of the Miami Heat. Riley wanted to recruit Barnes to pair him with a potential big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
In the interview (1:15 mark), Barnes reveals he was ready to move from Orlando to Miami. But he got a phone call that turned out to be Kobe. Kobe told him that he respected the determination to go against him, and that would make him a good teammate. Bryant asked Barnes if he wanted to join the Lakers, and Barnes did that just a few days later.
“Fast forward, my situation in Orland doesn’t work out because Stan is being funny. So I get a call from Pat Riley like ‘hey, we’re putting this team together’. I’m like ‘what kind of team?’. I’m in Orlando, Miami is right up the freeway. We’re gonna talk to Chris Bosh and LeBron might be coming. And then I’m like ‘what, really?’… It could be you, LeBron, D-Wade, Mike Miller. We’re going to win some rings. And it’s Miami too. Then I get this call from a number I don’t know and I’ll never answer my phone, but I just happen to answer it and it’s Kobe… We kind of start talking and he told me ‘anyone crazy enough to f*ck with me is crazy enough to play with me. Do you want to be a Laker?’. I grew up in Cali, I’m a showtime Magic Johnson dude, I’m like ‘hell yeah’, so 4 days later I was a Laker. We went from kind of just competitors to teammates and during that very first season we were both going through stuff in our personal life so we really bonded like we were kicking it.”
Kobe was a fierce competitor, who wanted to win at all costs. So his natural position on opposition players was to try and humble and humiliate them in order to dominate them mentally. Playing against Kobe Bryant meant being put through rounds to show how good you can.
But for those who were able to earn his respect, he would help out to a great degree. Bryant understood what players could be useful to him as teammates. Players like Trevor Ariza and Metta Sandiford-Artest have spoken about going against Kobe, and how that helped them become good teammates with him.