As two Hall of Fame players that were both members of the famed 1996 NBA Draft, Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant will always be linked together in the annals of basketball history. Together, they helped to take the torch from Michael Jordan and carry the league into a new era, and in doing so they paved the way for future generations. During a recent appearance on the “All The Smoke” podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, Iverson discussed his relationship with Bryant and revealed that he wishes he was closer to Kobe off of the court.
“I didn’t have a personal relationship with him, but you know how killers respect killers? That’s what it was,” Iverson said. “He knew who I was and I knew who he was. He gave me that push and I gave it to him.
“I wish I could have had a better relationship with him as far as how great other people said he was, and what type of cool dude he was,” Iverson added. “I want that energy around me. He was the ultimate.”
Iverson and Bryant famously faced off against each other in the 2001 Finals. It was the closest that Iverson would ever get to a ring, and unfortunately for him, Bryant, and a prime Shaquille O’Neal stood in his way.
“I think I’d have a championship ring on if Shaq wasn’t who he was in that series [2001 NBA Finals],” Iverson added on All The Smoke. “What’s crazy is people were saying Dikembe [Mutombo] had a great series, but I don’t know how you have a great series if the guy you’re guarding is averaging 30 and 15. Shaq had his way with damn near everybody then, especially in 2001…It was too much Shaq in his prime and then, you got Kobe in his prime.”
This isn’t the first time that Iverson has used the word “killer” to describe Bryant. In a tribute piece he penned earlier this year for The Players Tribune, Iverson called Bryant a “cold-blooded serial killer.” While this may not necessarily sound like a compliment, Iverson certainly meant it as one.
“You were the toughest man that I’ve ever seen in this game,” Iverson wrote about Bryant. “The most cold-blooded serial killer I’ve ever seen. The fiercest competitor I’ve ever seen. I remember hearing the story that you were on the road, and you were watching the highlights of me dropping 35 on the Knicks at the Garden our rookie year, and you got so mad that you smashed up the hotel room and you started researching me like you were in the CIA… That was just our relationship. Two dudes pushing each other to greatness.”
Bryant and Iverson were competitors on the court, but there was a lot of mutual respect there, and the extreme reverence that Iverson felt for Bryant clearly remains to this day.