Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant is known as one of the NBA’s all-time fiercest competitors, and his intensity wasn’t just limited to his opponents.
Lou Williams shared a locker room with Bryant during the latter’s final season in the NBA, and during a recent appearance on Paul George’s “Podcast P,” Williams shared a story about a time that Bryant confiscated his teammates Nike Kobe shoes because he thought they were too soft.
“I just remember him telling the young guys, ‘When I’m in the front office next year, I’m trading all you motherf——,'” Williams said. “We got back to L.A. that next day, and the equipment manager was just coming around with a big a– bucket, just scooping Kobes out of everybody locker. Me and Nick [Young] were like, ‘What you doin?’ And he said, ‘Kobe thinks y’all n—– soft, he don’t want y’all wearing his shoes.'”
Knowing the level of perfection Bryant expected out of himself, and in turn his teammates, Williams’ story isn’t especially surprising. Even in the twilight of his career, Bryant never lost his trademark edge or intensity, which he dubbed the “Mamba Mentality.”
Bryant’s style rubbed some teammates the wrong way, but it brought the best out of others, and it still resonates throughout the NBA to this day, as current players continue to credit Bryant’s approach as a major motivating factor in their own development.
“But Kobe always said his one job is to inspire the next generation — that’s what he’s done for us,” Phoenix Suns star guard Devin Booker said in July of 2022. “He is gonna live forever in this game and not even just in basketball. Just his approach to life and how he’s changed and shaped so many people.”
Few players in the history of the NBA have impacted the game the way that Bryant did, and his credentials speak for themselves. Bryant was a five-time NBA champion, and a two-time Finals MVP. He was named to 18 All-Star teams, 15 All-NBA teams, and 12 All-Defensive teams. He won one regular season MVP Award and led the league in scoring twice.
He also won the Slam Dunk Contest as a rookie in 1997 and won two gold medals in 2008 and 2012 as a member of Team USA. He was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.
More than his accolades though, Bryant will mainly be remembered for his competitive spirit and being the type of guy who would take his own teammates shoes if he thought they were underperforming.