PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In the first pick of the 1996 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers selected Allen Iverson.
A dozen picks later, the Charlotte Hornets selected Kobe Bryant out of Lower Merion High School with the 13th pick. He was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers that night.
Bryant went on to win five NBA titles, including one in 2001 over Iverson and his hometown Sixers. During his Hall Of Fame career, Bryant became a villain in Philadelphia. Iverson, who was inducted into the Hall Of Fame last year, was never able to win a title for Philly.
In a new piece of the Players’ Tribune, Bryant revealed that he was obsessed with beating A.I. and explained how Iverson’s early success fueled him to become better.
On November 12th, 1996, Iverson scored 35, while Kobe had just two points in five minutes.
“When I checked into my hotel room later that night and saw the 35 on SportsCenter, I lost it,” Bryant wrote. “I flipped the table, threw the chairs, broke the TV.”
Bryant explained how Iverson scored 41 points on him in 1999 in Philadelphia. After that, Kobe became Black Mamba.
“I obsessively read every article and book I could find about AI,” Bryant wrote. “I obsessively watched every game he had played, going back to the IUPU All-American Game. I obsessively studied his every success, and his every struggle. I obsessively searched for any weakness I could find.”
The following February, Iverson went scoreless against Kobe in an entire half.
“But I wasn’t satisfied after the win,” Bryant wrote. “I was annoyed that he had made me feel that way in the first place.
I swore, from that point on, to approach every matchup as a matter of life and death. No one was going to have that kind of control over my focus ever again.”
The full piece is here.