Kobe Bryant is known as one of the most competitive athletes not just in basketball, but in the broad landscape of sports as a whole. It’s what led him to win five NBA titles and two Finals MVP awards.
Bryant never backed down from a challenge, and he always fought until the final buzzer sounded. That got him in a bit of trouble in 2002 when he took a questionable 3-pointer against Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers. The game was already sealed with the Lakers up big, but Bryant chucked up a shot as time winded down anyway. Miller took offense to Bryant’s shot, and the two went after each other on the court.
Kobe Bryant was ultra competitive his entire career
As dominant as Bryant was on the court in his prime he might’ve even better at getting inside his opponent’s head. Kobe was a master of the mental game, and he broke opposing players who couldn’t handle the heat.
From betting thousands of dollars on a free throw to not even flinching when Matt Barnes fake-threw a ball in his face, Bryant was a different animal when it came to dominating the mental game.
Only the greats in the sport of basketball possessed Bryant’s mental toughness. Michael Jordan had it his whole career. Tim Duncan surely had it, too. Kawhi Leonard is the best example today. And what do all those players have in common?
That’s right, rings. And lots of ’em.
Bryant once fought Reggie Miller after shooting a disrespectful 3-pointer
Normally, Bryant’s mental toughness and competitive drive allowed him to excel on the court, but one time he might’ve taken it too far.
It’s common knowledge in the NBA that if your team is up big in the final 30 seconds, you run out the clock and take a shot-clock violation. No running up the score. No gloating. Just let the game end. Most players agree to this unwritten rule, but apparently, not Kobe Bryant.
In a game against the Pacers in 2002, Bryant chucked up a three while his team led by 12 in the final seconds of the contest. Reggie Miller took exception to the shot, and he got right up in Bryant’s face to tell him about it.
Bryant immediately went back at Miller, and the two ended up throwing punches right there on the floor. The scrum spilled over to the sidelines, where coaches and players intervened to break up the two All-Stars. Miller didn’t regret a second of it.
“I like having fights with guys that are similar to me,” Miller recently told The Dan Patrick Show. “That’s why I probably got into it so many times with Jordan and with Kobe. I look at them and see me in a mirror.”
The aftermath of Bryant and Miller’s on-court fight
After the on-court fight, both Bryant and Miller were suspended for two games. Bryant was also fined $12,500 for throwing a punch at Miller during the fight.
The dust-up must’ve lit a fire under Bryant, as he went on to lead the Lakers to the 2002 NBA title. It was the third straight NBA Finals win for Bryant and the Lakers.