Save for LeBron James, nobody’s name comes up alongside Michael Jordan as often as the late Kobe Bryant. While Bryant might not have reached Jordan’s level of talent, his competitive drive directly aligns with Jordan’s notoriously stringent philosophy. One place where they differed, however, involves their relationships with teammates. For that, there’s no greater example than Dennis Rodman.
Kobe Bryant vs. his teammates
Bryant always had that Mamba Mentality, which was essential to his brand in the latter half of his career. That desire to win at all costs motivated teammates like Lamar Odom, Metta World Peace, and others with controversial reputations. However, for every teammate with a loving relationship, another was ugly.
In 2013, Sports Illustrated covered Shaquille O’Neal and Bryant’s vitriolic relationship. Their rampant bickering and falling outs are as famous as their three rings with the Lakers. The pair may have been one of the greatest in NBA history, but their egos and conflicting styles made them a hotbed for drama. It doesn’t end with Shaq, however.
While Bryant eventually developed a reputation as a leader for a younger crowd, he infamously called out Andrew Bynum in front of fans in a mall parking lot and feuded with point guard Smush Parker as the pair exchanged potshots throughout Bryant’s life. Later in his career, as SI reports, Bryant’s one-year stint with Dwight Howard famously ended with Howard saying, “Him or me,” before booking it to Houston.
In many of these situations, Bryant seemed willing to put aside differences and move on, especially after his playing days. However, if he’d taken a page from Jordan’s books, perhaps these feuds would not be a part of the conversation.
Michael Jordan vs. his teammates
Jordan doesn’t have a perfect track record with teammates. From the infamous practice where he punched Steve Kerr in the face to endless allegations that he threw teammates under the bus, his methodology left much to be desired.
However, few teammates have less-than-glowing things to say about their time with Jordan’s Bulls despite these allegations. MJ’s late-career friendship with Dennis Rodman takes the cake. The Undefeated looked back before The Last Dance‘s airing in 2020.
Jordan and Rodman were rivals in the late ’80s during heated games between the Bulls and Detroit Pistons. Still, after Rodman rebranded as a bad boy and Jordan’s Bulls needed a dog when he came out of retirement for the first time, Rodman was their guy.
In just three years together, Rodman went from an NBA curiosity to, arguably, the most talked-about Bulls player. From his infamous marriage to Carmen Electra to his penchant for tabloid headlines elsewhere, Rodman became a distraction. Rather than harbor resentment for the mercurial Rodman, Jordan embraced him.
Despite all of their differences, and there were plenty, Rodman and Jordan developed a professional relationship that, according to Rodman, remains strong to this day. He told Yahoo:
“[We] have so much love for each other now because we’re not haters with each other. We embrace the fact that we had a chance to play with each other. We’re friends. We’re not calling each other every day and hanging out, but when we see each other, we share the love.”
When the news of Bryant’s death shook the world at large, many of Bryant’s past teammates reconciled with their complicated relationships with the Black Mamba. Parker took the time to reflect on Instagram about his regrets that the two never worked through their differences.
“The toughest pill to swallow on today for me has been the fact that I didn’t get a chance to verbally speak with my brother,” the former Lakers guard wrote on Instagram, stating his belief that the pair’s shared faith could’ve brought them into reckoning. Luckily for others, they got their chance.
O’Neal and Kobe Bryant famously made up over the last few years, appearing on a special for NBA TV to discuss not only their failures but the triumphs. In light of Bryant’s death, on Instagram, O’Neal compared their roller-coaster relationship to a brotherhood, stating that they still loved each other despite their many differences.
Similar things can be said about Dwight Howard. When Howard rejoined the Lakers before last season, he and Bryant famously buried the hatchet. According to Silver Screen and Roll, Howard even claimed that the surefire Hall of Famer was in talks to appear with him at the 2020 Dunk Contest before his tragic death.
For all of Jordan’s faults on the court, most of his teammates speak lovingly of him. From Pippen and Kerr to Grant and Armstrong, people may not have always loved Jordan’s methods, but deep down, he knew how to motivate. Bryant achieved this later in life, but many, including Parker, wish they’d worked things out even more.