Look out, Dahntay Jones. Kobe Bryant is coming for you.
During his prolific 17-year NBA career, the Black Mamba has held grudges against some of the biggest superstars in the game—and some of the league’s most inconsequential role players.
After the Atlanta Hawks swingman decided to play defense with the intent to injure on Wednesday evening, it's no surprise Bryant has added him to the long list of players he has a vendetta against.
The Los Angeles Lakers superstar was in the midst of trying to cap off yet another miracle comeback when something went awry. It wasn’t just the baseline jumper that missed with less than three seconds left that was surprising, but rather the way Bryant landed that is of much more concern.
He came down awkwardly on Jones’ extended right foot, immediately crumpling into a heap and grabbing at the area. This reaction was later revealed to be due to a severe left ankle sprain and will keep Bryant sidelined indefinitely, per Sam Amick of USA Today.
While Lakers fans are devastated, Jones should be more concerned with the Mamba’s quotes and Twitter reaction shortly after this alleged dirty play.
In the postgame interview, Bryant disclosed that it’s not his ankle that is bothering him most, but the fact that he’s going to have to wait a year to get his revenge on Jones (as per Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski).
Bryant obviously wasn’t going to drop the issue, later tweeting out that he strongly felt it was a dangerous play and a foul should have been called on Jones’ underhanded attempt at defense.
Given the fact that these two have a history dating back to 2009, when Jones employed a variety of devious defensive strategies, you can rest assured that Bryant will seek retribution.
Jones attempted to defend his actions on Twitter, brazenly claiming Kobe could have been called an offensive foul for kicking his legs out.
He went on to apologize and explain he never meant to intentionally injure the Mamba, but it's likely too late.
Even if this injury doesn’t cause Kobe to miss a significant number of contests, you can bet he will be actively plotting a reprisal and spending the summer using the incident as motivation.
The last time the Lakers SG suffered a sprain this severe was in the 2000 Finals, when Jalen Rose utilized the exact same questionable defensive tactic.
At the time, the Indiana Pacers were trailing L.A., 1-0, in the best-of-seven series. Rose—one of the best players on the team—decided to deny Bryant of a clean landing on a jumper early in Game 2. It worked, forcing Kobe to the sideline until his triumphant return in Game 4.
Rose—now an NBA analyst for ESPN—admitted to intentionally trying to injure the Mamba in order to win a championship ring. Interestingly enough, Rose was the first name to come out of Bryant’s mouth after the Hawks game on Wednesday.
Thirteen years later, the Mamba clearly still hasn’t forgotten. Even after dropping 81 points against Rose’s Toronto Raptors on a special night back in 2006, that Finals injury still remains firmly entrenched in his memory.
That’s just par for the course when it comes to Bryant’s grudges, which he has held plenty more of during his tenure in the Association.
Remember, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe feuded for years after the big man left the Lakers organization, only for Kobe to fully forgive the Big Aristotle shortly after he retired from the league.
Then there’s Dwyane Wade breaking Bryant’s nose and concussing the star with a hard foul in the midst of the 2012 All-Star Game, forcing the L.A. superstar to don a mask (although not a cape) for a short period after.
When the Lakers met the Miami Heat just a week later, Bryant went off for 33 points and forced Wade to foul out after scoring just 16. Of course, the Los Angeles won by 10 points, 93-83.
Cuban suggested that the Lake Show should potentially exercise their amnesty clause on Bryant, who is set to earn over $30 million in 2013-14, the last year of his contract. Unfortunately for the Mavs, those remarks came mere days before the team hosted L.A.
Bryant delivered a rebuttal with his play, finishing the night with 38 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a 103-99 Lakers victory. He wasn’t finished yet, once again taking to Twitter to punctuate the performance, sending out a message that simply said: “Amnesty THAT.”
With all of this evidence and plenty more in the NBA archives, Dahntay Jones clearly has reason to be concerned. The soon to be unrestricted free agent is going to have trouble following him wherever he lands next season.
It wouldn’t be surprising if it were revealed that Bryant sets a “Google Alert” for Jones during free agency or constantly checks a free-agent tracker to see where his new nemesis winds up.
As soon as he signs, Bryant is likely going to immediately circle the dates on his calendar in which the Lakers match up against that franchise. Whichever franchise takes on the swingman is going to be in for a world of pain when it has to play L.A.
Kobe may be 35 years old during the 2013-14 campaign, but he’s going to dial back the clock and look 25 when he sees Jones out on the court. We’re not saying he’s going to drop 81, but we’re damn sure he’s going to try.
If there is anything we’ve learned over the past 17 years, it’s that the Black Mamba does not easily forgive and does not ever forget.