Former rival coach remembers telling Kobe Bryant he got into quarrel with 5-year-old daughter over her liking Lakers star

Mike Battaglino
4 Min Read

Kobe Bryant’s popularity reached far and wide while the Los Angeles Lakers star was competing in the NBA, with the child of one rival coach even taking notice of him along the way.

Former longtime NBA head coach George Karl recently acknowledged an old video of him speaking to Bryant in an NBA All-Star locker room about getting into a dispute with his daughter over the Lakers icon.

“I have a five-year-old daughter,” Karl told Bryant. “And she’s just starting to pick up on basketball. She loves Carmelo [Anthony]. She knew I was gonna be at All-Star.

“She said, ‘Is Kobe gonna be there?’ I said, ‘Coby Karl (his son) or Kobe Bryant?’ ‘Kobe Bryant.’ She said, ‘Oh, I wanna talk to Kobe Bryant.’

“And I go, ‘Why do you wanna meet Kobe Bryant? We don’t like any of those guys. We want to kick their butts.’ She goes, ‘Well, you should have Kobe teach your players.’

“I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ … ‘Well, you know he’s better than your players.’ And I’m getting mad at my five-year-old daughter here, going, ‘You’re not supposed to be saying this.'”

Bryant then had a response.

“I’d put her on time-out,” he said.

Karl, who was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 2022, was named head coach of four All-Star teams during his career. Now 72 years old, he was head coach of the Seattle SuperSonics when Bryant broke into the league in the 1996-97 season, but the rivalry between the two picked up during Karl’s nine seasons as head coach of the Denver Nuggets.

Bryant and the Lakers denied Karl and the Nuggets a berth in the 2009 NBA Finals with a six-game victory in the Western Conference Finals. Los Angeles also eliminated Denver in the first round in 2008 and 2012.

Karl finished his NBA coaching career with the Sacramento Kings in the 2015-16 campaign, which also was Bryant’s last season with the Lakers.

The Los Angeles legend played in 18 All-Star games during his NBA career, and his influence on the game can still be seen to this day in many different areas.

The organization recently announced that it will unveil a statue in his honor at Arena in February, which reportedly will be one of multiple physical tributes in memory of the icon, who was among nine people who died in a helicopter crash in January 2020.

Former Lakers guard Byron Scott recently mentioned Bryant in a discussion about some of the greatest players ever, and NBA player Jordan Clarkson said he does consider Bryant to be his G.O.A.T (greatest player of all time).

Recent acknowledgments have also extended to other sports, with San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. and tennis legend Novak Djokovic paying tribute to Bryant in different ways.

So, it is no surprise that a long time ago, a five-year-old daughter of an NBA rival also recognized Bryant’s greatness, no matter how much it might have upset her Hall of Fame father.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. He remembers the birth of "Showtime" and has always admired the star power the Lakers have brought to the game.