Kobe Bryant played the game of basketball with an incredible amount of edge and intensity. Over his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant was not afraid to jaw at other players and get physical, especially since his play often backed him up. Kobe’s most famous altercation came in 2000 against the New York Knicks and a scrappy guard named Chris Childs. But this time, the Black Mamba wasn’t on the winning end.
Kobe Bryant and Chris Childs had opposite career paths
Before Bryant was a star in LA, he was a high school phenom at Lower Merion. His prep career helped the 17-year-old go 13th overall in the 1996 NBA Draft. Immediately, Kobe dazzled in the pros, winning the Slam Dunk Contest his rookie season and starting in the All-Star Game the following year.
But as the future superstar Bryant was entering the NBA, Childs was still largely unknown.
The 6-foot-3 point guard went undrafted out of Boise State in 1989. From that point, he spent the next five years playing in the Continental Basketball Association in cities like Rapid City, South Dakota, and his hometown of Bakersfield, California. After impressive numbers in the minor leagues, Childs finally got an NBA opportunity with the New Jersey Nets ahead of the 1994-95 season.
Childs, who struggled with alcoholism in the CBA, had two quality seasons with the Nets, including a 1995-96 campaign with a career-best 12.8 points per game. Following the breakthrough season, the guard went across the river and signed a six-year, $24 million deal with the Knicks.
Childs and Kobe got into a fight
On April 2, 2000, the Lakers were hosting the Knicks at Staples Center. Both teams were in solid playoff position; the Lakers were dominating the West at 61-12 while the Knicks were a solid 45-27.
During the third quarter, Childs drew exception to the 6-foot-6 Bryant elbowing him in the head twice. The veteran guard wasn’t pleased, but no punches were thrown … yet.
“If you watch the tape, he elbowed me twice,” Childs said on The Hoop Collective podcast. “He started it. I looked at the ref and said, ‘Are you gonna do something about this?’ He put his hands out like, ‘Whatever.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, no problem, I got this.’ We run up and down the court and I say, ‘Young fella, if you do that again, I’m gonna take off on you. I’m gonna take off.’ And he said, ‘You aren’t going to do that.’
Just seconds later, Bryant initiated another elbow toward the surly guard. That’s when the tough guy Childs had enough (h/t: Three Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty).
“He hit me with a chicken wing,” Childs said. “I hit him with the two-piece and a biscuit.”Jeff Pearlman
Childs hit Bryant with two punches before their teammates jumped in to break up the fight. The Knicks guard was ejected and hit with a two-game suspension, while Kobe served a one-game suspension as well.
Bryant and Childs didn’t continue their beef much longer
By the looks of the fight, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if Bryant and Childs held a grudge against one another. But as Childs told TMZ shortly after Kobe’s tragic passing in January 2020, the two were cool.
“Nah, it was never a beef,” Childs said. “It was just something that happened. We let bygones be bygones.”
Childs also admitted the two would occasionally see each other at UCLA during workouts, but everything was civil. “We always gave each other the head nod, ya know, acknowledging the other person,” Childs said.
It also helps that the 53-year-old, who retired in 2003, later said he wasn’t trying to seriously hurt the Laker legend.
“I didn’t want to knock him out, because I could have,” Childs said. “But if I did, I’d still be suspended right now. I didn’t put the shoulder in or lean into it. I didn’t want to hurt him.”
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.