Gilbert Arenas: Michael Jordan Told Kobe Bryant He'd Never Fill His Shoes in '03

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2019

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) walks up court as a fan holds a sign comparing Bryant unfavorably with Michael Jordan, during the fourth quarter in Game 5 of the NBA basketball finals against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, June 13, 2010, in Boston. The Celtics won 92-86 and lead the series 3-2. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

You don't have to look hard to find the Michael Jordan inspiration in Kobe Bryant's game.

In 2003, it appears Kobe found out what it was like when your idol becomes your rival.

Gilbert Arenas shared a story of an interaction between Jordan and Bryant during the 2002-03 season on his No Chill podcast.

Ball Don't Stop @balldontstop

“Kobe Bryant was a f**king psycho” Gilbert Arenas tells us the story of what led to @KobeBryant scoring 55 against MJ and the Wizards that night 😳 Mamba was a sicko. More stories 👇🏽 (FULL EPISODE): https://t.co/2E42bQnNVh https://t.co/RnvfN5NCwt https://t.co/mF4FybxueB

"Jordan hits [Kobe] on the butt and says 'you can put the shoes on, but you ain't gonna never fill 'em,'" Arenas said MJ told Bryant after a regular-season game when Jordan was with the Washington Wizards.

At the time, Kobe was wearing Jordan 8 sneakers.

In other words, a classic bit of savage trash talk by one of the game's greatest to ever do it.

Now may be a good time to mention that Jordan was 40 at the time. Kobe, by contrast, was in the midst of trying to four-peat with the Lakers and ascending to full-blown superstardom at age 24.

Suffice it to say Jordan's slight motivated the Lakers star.

According to Arenas' telling of what transpired afterward, Bryant didn't speak to Lakers teammates for two weeks. The situation became so bleak that Lakers teammates went to Phil Jackson and asked if Bryant was upset with them. Jackson then told them the story, setting the stage for Bryant to exact his revenge.

Kobe did just that, dropping 42 first-half points on his way to a 55-point outing the next time he went head-to-head against Jordan that spring. Jordan finished with 23 points in the Lakers' 108-94 blowout victory.

Of course, all of this is second-hand information. Arenas was playing for the Golden State Warriors at the time, so it's not as if he was within earshot of the situation.

That said, we all very much want to believe this is true on both ends here, so we're choosing to take it all at face value.