Man, young fellas just are not scared of Kobe Bryant anymore, huh? Well, young No. 1 picks aren't, at least.
First, it was Anthony Davis — barely out of Kentucky, not yet a member of the New Orleans Hornets — saying that the player he was most looking forward to defending in the pros was the Black Mamba because, despite being a 6-foot-11 power forward unlikely to match up with too many off-guards, he wants to be able to say, "I shut Kobe down." Now, at Team USA's pre-2012 Summer Olympics training camp in Las Vegas, reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving straight up challenges the Los Angeles Lakers star to a game of one-on-one. In front of God, the rest of the team and everybody ... including a camera shooting video for DukeBluePlanet.com.
Privately, you'd imagine this reckless talk from the league's next generation must burn the five-time NBA champion something fierce. Publicly, though, Kobe shows that he finds it absolutely hilarious, and completely tears the Cleveland Cavaliers point guard to shreds with trash talk in one of the truly amazing sequences to come from Team USA's workouts.
"This is not a high school kid coming to you — 'Kobe, Kobe, oh my God!'" Irving says. "This is me, coming to talk to you, one-on-one."
A smiling Bryant then tells Irving that the price of a game is 50 large.
"But I'll cut it to 25 for you," he says. "Just for you."
He then intimates that Irving, whose career earnings after one NBA season trail Kobe's by juuuust a little bit, could get the full $50,000 from his father.
"But I know your dad don't think you can beat me one-on-one," Bryant adds. "I know that. I know that.
"Get your dad on the phone right now. Be like, 'Pops, I'm trying to bet Kob' 50 grand I can beat him one-on-one.' He'll be like, 'Son, are you crazy? Are you crazy?'"
Irving then reminds Bryant that he'd have to defend him, too, resulting in a scrunchfaced dismissal ("So?") before settling on a handshake deal to play the one-on-one game next summer, with the loser donating $50,000 to charity — possibly the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, which has taken in more than $90,000 from auctions of Kobe's clear protective face mask and a game of H-O-R-S-E with the 14-time All-Star — and the winner hanging on to the even more valuable bragging rights.
But even with the deal sealed, the young point guard still feels frustrated.
"He thinks he's talking to a high school kid!" an incredulous Irving tells the camera.
"You just came out of high school, kid!" Bryant responds.
"I just came out of college!" Irving replies. "You came out of high school!"
"You played two games in college," Bryant answers. "You played two games. You are a high school kid."
Point of order: As Irving reminds Kobe, he actually played a whopping 11 games in his lone season at Duke University. This does not seem to alter Kobe's position one iota.
The continual trash talk — including Bryant predicting that if Irving tried to defend him when the Lakers play the Cavs, coach Byron Scott would immediately call for a Cleveland double-team, and the limitless ether of Kobe entertaining a comparison between Kyrie and Lil' Bow Wow ("Y'all about the same size") — is absolutely delicious, and its succulence only increases on subsequent viewings. If nothing else, the conversation proves that while Irving's game has come a long way in a very short time, he's not yet in Kobe's stratosphere when it comes to spittin' yang.
(That said: Don't sleep, Kobe. The kid can go.)
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- Kobe Bryant