(CBS LA)- Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant is considered one of the best players to ever take to the hardwood. His success over time has been attributed to his work ethic and drive, even coining his own term for it, the “Mamba” mentality.
But, even the greats have struggles. On the latest episode of the All The Smoke podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, Bryant opened up about what he felt were the lowest moments of his 20-year career.
“Losing to the Celtics in ’08 was tough, but before that, at the beginning of the journey, I was not playing. So coming in as a rookie and saying, ‘Man, if I knew the s*** was going to be like this, I would have went to school,” said Bryant. “I felt like my coach, Del Harris at the time, was trying to make sure he did not show favoritism to the young kid, and as a result, he swung completely in the opposite direction and doing things that weren’t really fair. I mean, not playing. My first two or three years were a nightmare.”
As nightmarish as those years may have been for Bryant, it was clear he was making steady improvement to his game. He went from 7.6 points per game in his rookie season to 19.9 points in Year 3. That third season is when he finally cracked the starting lineup full-time and started all 50 games of the lockout-shortened season in 1998-99. Del Harris was let go early in that season, he was replaced prior to the next year by Phil Jackson and, of course, the rest is history.
While on the podcast, Bryant also dove into where that drive and ambition that he became famous for during, and after, his career comes from.
“We had a really competitive household with my cousins and my father and my uncle. We were very competitive. You had to really, really work to just survive. That’s with swimming, playing basketball, playing video games, whatever. It was a s***-talking family,” said Bryant. “When you lose, not only do you lose but you get embarrassed while you lose. So I grew up in that kind of environment. You had to work hard just to keep your head above water.”
Bryant’s work ethic led him to five rings in his NBA career to go with two NBA Finals MVP awards. Since retiring, he has added to that trophy case, picking up a Sports Emmy award and an Oscar for his work on various platforms. The wide-ranging conversation with Barnes and Jackson covered everything from Bryant’s career, to the infamous Barnes’ ball-fake in his face, to his relationship with his wife Vanessa. You can check out the full interview above, on the Showtime Basketball YouTube channel or listen to All The Smoke on any of the major podcast platforms.