Kevin Garnett has opened up on his relationship with Kobe Bryant as well as some of their most memorable interactions in a new book titled KG: A to Z: An Uncensored Encyclopedia of Life, Basketball, and Everything in Between.
Some excerpts have been published by Bleacher Report and they make for a hell of a read.
Take a look below.
THE FIRST TIME KG MET KOBE
We first met in Philly, the Spectrum, my rookie season. I liked the Spectrum because the lighting was dark and dramatic. I had a decent game, came off the floor, and when I walked into the locker room, there he was, sitting on my stool.
“Whassup, KG,” he said. “I’m Kobe.”
“Whassup,” I shot back. “But why is yo ass in my seat? Get the f–k outta my seat.”
He jumped up right quick, and we had a little chuckle. He was super animated, boisterous as a little boy. He was lit. I could see the spit on his words coming off his voice. He came at me straight ahead. We were teenagers. He was 17. I was 19. I was already in. He was a year away from getting in. He was fixing to do what I’d done—go straight from high school to the draft—so right away we related. Never had met nobody with so many questions. One tumbling out after another.
“Is it really as aggressive as it looks out there?”
“Hell, yes, it’s aggressive.”
“Is it rough being a rook?”
“Rough as f–k.”
“How do you mean?”
“It’s about paying dues. About standing up to vets who see you as a threat. About getting your ass kicked. About standing your ground.”
“You got a crew? You got your people?”
“I got my people, but I’m a to-myself kinda dude. I can feel you’re more a people person.”
GOING HEAD-TO-HEAD WITH KOBE
During regular-season games, we were consistent with each other. We banged, we fought, we trashed. I picked him when I had to pick him. Blocked him when I could block him. He’d be saying, “You can’t guard me.” I’d be saying, “The f–k I can’t.”
Two thoroughbreds out there, two fierce competitors seeing how far we could take it. Never was a game, no matter how fierce, where we didn’t dap each other after.
CONNECTING ON A DEEPER LEVEL
He proved me right. Kobean was my kid brotha. He was the extrovert. I was the introvert. His dad was a hooper who helped take him through the maze. Later, when we tightened up, he’d be telling me stories about the Italian league. He’d start spittin’ in Italian. That was some funny s–t. But on those endless All-Star locker room talks and lunches, after the media sessions were over, we’d be sitting in the hallway, two hoopers just chopping it up. That’s when Bean would tell me about the challenges of fitting in as an American kid after all his years in Europe. Not just as an American kid, but a Black kid. He went through his own culture shock before he shocked the world. Me and Bean were molded differently, but in some ways I saw him as the 2.0 version of me. He did his due diligence.
ALMOST BECOMING KOBE’S TEAMMATE IN LA
Only time I can recall real frustration was the summer of 2007, when I was fixing to bust a move. I’d come to the end of the road with the T-Wolves. It was between three teams—Suns, Celtics and Lakers—and I wanted to get Kob’s take on whether he thought his Lakers were right for me. I called him. No answer. Called a second time. No answer. Checked my phone to make sure I had the right number: Bean Bryant. Go over the digits carefully. Yes, sir, that’s the number. Let me try this again. Fifth time. Sixth.
Before calling the 14th time, I asked my wife, “Should I try him again?” “Yes,” she said. “It’s your future.” I even asked Tyronn Lue, who was close to both of us, to get him to holler at me, but Bean never did. After my 20th time, I figured enough was enough. Only later did I learn that he was in China for a long while. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t getting messages.
The planet kept spinning. That summer the Celtics traded for Ray Allen, and suddenly things came into focus. T-Lue was telling me, “Ticket, this is it.” Chauncey Billups was saying the same. “Ain’t gonna be a better opportunity. You gotta jump over to Beantown, baby.” That summer, Gary Payton renewed his marriage vows in L.A. I wanted to show support for GP. Antoine Walker was there as well. Antoine was coming off his Heat championship. He got him a ring. Antoine and I got to talking. He was echoing Shot and T-Lue.
“Boston is what’s up, big fella. You gotta make that move. You gotta get that ring.”
I could feel Antoine. He was being genuine. He had my best interests at heart. Brotha gave me some of the best advice of my life.
I made the decision. Made it with confidence. Made it with determination. I put away the fantasy of being Bean’s teammate. Wasn’t all that easy, but I did what I had to do.
And after I did it, after the season was underway, there we were, November 23, facing off against each other in Boston, me a Celtic, Bean a Laker, with someone at the free-throw line. I avoided lining up next to him ’cause I didn’t wanna hear his punk-ass excuse for not calling me back. Then he switched so he could be next to me. Then, again, I moved away. Finally, the ref had to say, “You guys get somewhere and stop!”
When he approached me, my first words were, “Man, you never called me back.”
“Never got the message.”
“What number you call?”
“The right number. The one T-Lue gave me.”
“You know how it goes, KG. We change numbers like we change drawers.”
“I’m believing you got the message.”
“Messages get lost.”
“Not when a message is sent 20 f–kin’ times.”
“Look, man, I had China. I had the new Nike line poppin’ off. I had more s–t happening than ever before. I was moving in eight different directions.”
“I understand all that, but you sure as s–t wasn’t moving in my direction.”
We kept beefin’ for a minute or two. It got caught on camera, and folks made more of it than was really there. I had me some hurt feelings. Finally, Bean apologized, and that was good enough for me.
Between Kob and me, bad feelings always faded away.
In the middle of the mad scramble I see Kobean. I call him “Kobean” or “Bean” cause his dad is Jellybean. Bean knows what I was going through. I’d been chasing him, been chasing Shaq, been chasing Timmy, been chasing all the legacies, and now the moment is mine.
“Congratulations, man,” says Bean.
“Enjoy this, cause there ain’t gonna be too many more. I’ll see yo b—h ass next year.”
I have to get in my blows, have to say: “We activated now. This ain’t that Minnesota s–t.”
“Say hi to Vanessa and the kids,” I say.
“Love you, my brotha.”
“Love you too, dawg.”
Then I give him one of those gorilla hugs around the neck and ask, “Bean, y’all out tonight?”
“Hell, yes,” said Kob, “we getting the f–k outta this b—h.”
It’s beautiful because I know how pissed he is—Bean hates losing more than anyone—but I also know that he has to be a little happy for his OG.
KOBE PASSING AWAY
I never imagined he’d die before me. In writing about Bean, I’m feeling so many things at once. I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around what happened. Disbelief. It was too sudden. Too awful. Too painful to process. But once I face the awful fact, I eventually get to pride—pride at what Kobean accomplished and then gratitude that he was in my life and that we became brothas…
… If I have any guilt, it’s that I didn’t take our friendship to another level. After we retired, I could have reached out more. I wish I had. But Kobe had gone down to Orange County, and I was up in L.A. We were leading two different lives and moving in different directions.
When I got the news that Kob and his precious daughter and all those other good folk had gone on to Glory, the first person I called was Paul. He’d be hurting the way I was hurting. I had to talk to P. But I couldn’t talk. All I could do was cry. Well, it’s OK to cry like a baby. When I think how Kob’s time was cut short, I gotta cry. No other reaction is real. This grief ain’t going away. But somehow I gotta move from grief to belief. I gotta go to spirit. Spirit is real. Spirit is something we can feel. The spiritual truth is that I, along with the rest of the world, will be feeling Bean’s spirit for the rest of our days.
You can buy KG’s new book here.