Kyrie Irving never backed down from a challenge. He’s one of those players who will go at you no matter what. Even when he first came into the league, he was ready to go at the best of the best.
After winning the Rookie of the Year for the 2011-12 season, Irving had a lot of confidence going for himself. Going into Team USA camp, Irving wanted to take on one of the NBA greats in a game of one-on-one. That player was Kobe Bryant. Irving looked up to Bryant a lot when he first came into the league and saw him as a mentor. Even though Irving was pushing this to happen, Bryant did not want any parts of it.
Why Bryant denied the one-on-one game
When Irving came to Bryant about the challenge, Bryant could not take Irving seriously. Here you have a player who just finished his rookie season in the league, and he wants to take on one of the best players in the history of the league. All Bryant could do was laugh at that time. Both players went back and forth in an argument. At one point during the discussion, Bryant told Irving that he just came out of high school. Irving only played in 11 games at Duke before declaring for the draft, but in Bryant’s eyes, he still came out of high school.
Irving was not backing down from the trash talk given by Bryant, and it was fueling the fire. Originally, Irving put $50,000 on the table, and the loser would have to donate it to charity. But still, Bryant was not budging. Bryant did not think it would be a challenge going up against the younger Irving. Even though it would have been a great matchup to see, it never happened.
The point guard tells of the moment when he wanted to tell the Lakers player something very special.
I went up to him and my heart was pounding, I don’t know why. I thought I was going to talk to Kobe. I was thinking I was going to tell him I was going to beat him 1-on-1. I practiced the phrase in my head. I even practiced in front of the mirror. I faced him to tell him I was going to beat him, to tell him we should do this 1-on-1, to tell him he couldn’t defend on me. I deviated a little bit from my original script. The Duke reporters were there and they recorded our whole exchange. »
The Nets point guard then spoke about Kobe’s reaction.
I heard that afterwards he said things like, ‘That little son of a bitch Kyrie has the guts to come out and challenge me?’ Imagine if he had. He would have laced up his shoes and we would have played. But I think he already had respect for me, even though I was just starting out in my career. He still told me that if we put $50,000 on the line we could do it the next year. We never got the chance to do it. But after that, my respect for him grew even more and I studied his game even more. »