Tributes came pouring in on August 23, on what would have been Kobe Bryant’s 42nd birthday.
And now a day later on 8/24, the outpouring continues on the day that represents both numbers he was famous for rocking. Players shared their memories and inspiration they received from the Black Mamba, and the latest comes from one of his contemporaries, Allen Iverson.
The 1996 NBA draft, which is one the most legendary in recent history, was stacked with talent. Everyone from Marcus Camby, Ray Allen, Stephon Marbury to Steve Nash made waves upon entering the league. But the two players that stood out the most were Bryant, who was picked 13th and Iverson, who went first overall. It was then that the two found a mutual respect for each other through fierce competitiveness.
Iverson took to The Players’ Tribune to pen an emotional letter about his friend and started it by remembering his first impressions of him.
“The first time I saw you going up against Black Jesus, when you were 18 years old, I knew you were a killer. That’s when I realized you were going to be a legend in this game,” Iverson writes. “You were going hard at Mike that night. No fear whatsoever. I mean, I knew from passing you in traffic over the years that you were a dog. But when I saw you going at Black Jesus like that?”
Iverson goes on to reminisce how much the two enjoyed playing against each other, and the competitiveness came from a place of love.
“Me and you, every single time we stepped on that floor, we were going to war. But it wasn’t an animosity thing. There was never any beef. It was like heavyweight fighters beating the hell out of one another. And then at the bell, it’s nothing but love and respect. Greatness needs company, and we needed each other. Mike needed Prince like Prince needed Mike. Tyson needed Holyfield like Holyfield needed Tyson,” said Iverson.
Bubba Chuck closed out the letter with the same sentiments many Kobe fans have– not knowing what to say.
“I don’t really know how I’m supposed to close out a letter like this. I don’t really know how to say goodbye to an NBA legend, a father, a husband, a friend. I don’t really have the words. All I know is … I love you, brother.”
Read the entire letter here.