Kobe Bryant was one of the fiercest competitors in NBA history, always trying to win and beat rivals no matter what it took. He developed his famous 'Mamba Mentality' early in his life, going against every obstacle in his way, defeating the odds, and showing that nobody had a bigger will than him.
Just like his idol, Bryant used to take things personally, and one of the biggest samples of that came when he was a teenager and ready to prove to the world he was the real deal. As you all know, Kobe skipped college and went straight to the NBA, which shows how confident he was in his talents back then.
He was so sure that there was nobody better than him that once he couldn't sleep because he kept thinking about the people who overlooked him as the best player in the US at the time. Kobe couldn't stand that and used it as fuel to beat his rivals.
Richard Hamilton Tells Story Of Kobe Bryant Getting Mad At Tim Thomas For Being Called No. 1 Player In The Country
Richard Hamilton used to spend time with Bryant when they were teenagers, and in one of those moments, Rip learned about Kobe's incredible competitiveness, recalling the time he was furious because Tim Thomas was the No. 1 player in the US and not him.
“I’ve been knowing him since we were kids,” Hamilton explained in an NBA 75 Stories video honoring Bryant. “Very special human being. Taught me a whole lot, especially from the simple fact of having a killer instinct. Like people seen that, when you hear ‘Mamba Mentality,’ like people hear that late. Kobe, championships, MVPs, and everything like that. No, he had that ‘Mamba Mentality’ at 15, 16 years old.”
The guard saw that reality first-hand, especially when he and Bryant roomed together at AAU tournaments.
“I can remember being in a room late at night cause we were roommates,” Hamilton continued. “And I can remember, we were playing, and Tim Thomas was the number one player in the country at the time. Kobe didn’t want to go to sleep that night. He was restless. He would do this multiple times a night. He would just walk around my bed, cause my bed was here, his bed was here, he would just walk around my bed. And he was like, ‘Hey, man. Rip, tomorrow. They got Tim Thomas as the number one player in the country. I should be the number one player in the country. I’m gonna go out there and show the world.’ He said, ‘Watch this. Wait, wait and see.'”
Hamilton, however, had a different concern.
“I’m like, ‘Bro, got to sleep, man. Like, we got three big games tomorrow,” he concluded. “[Kobe’s] like, ‘Nah, nah. Look, trust me. I’m gonna have my A-game. I’m gonna come out there, and I’m just gonna destroy everybody that’s out on the floor, regardless [of] who’s guarding me.'”
Kobe Bryant was always ready to destroy the competition, and when he felt disrespected, that was only bad news for his rivals. It's incredible to know that at 15 and 16, he was already like that, and those who spent time with him could notice it.
Hamilton learned a lot about Kobe during those years, and he would see the Black Mamba in the NBA Finals many years later, beating him in a shocking series win with his Detroit Pistons. Still, as he showed many times during his career, Kobe bounced back and showed why he's one of the greatest players of all time.