Penny Hardaway was unaware of Kobe Bryant as a high schooler, something the Los Angeles Lakers star used to motivate himself
Bryant passed tragically in a helicopter accident in January along with eight others, including his daughter Gianna.
Penny Hardaway talks about when he first met Lakers legend Kobe Bryant
Penny Hardaway met Kobe Bryant at a Philadelphia 76ers game when Bryant was in high school, finishing his career at Lower Merion in the Philadelphia area.
Bryant asked Hardaway his advice on going to college or entering the draft straight out of high school, seeking the opinion of someone with the perspective Hardaway had on the draft process.
“I met Kobe when Kobe was in high school and I didn’t know who he was. Obviously I’m the man in the NBA, I’ve got the Little Penny commercials, I’ve got my signature shoe, I’m on top of the world, I’m first-team All-NBA. And he came to me after a Sixers game and asked me what he should do on going to the draft and man, I had never known who Kobe was, and I felt so bad afterwards because he asked me should he go, and I said, ‘I don’t know young fella, you might wanna go to college.’ This is Kobe Bryant! And he was like, ‘well they’re telling me I’m gonna be lottery.’ I said, ‘well if they’re telling you you’re gonna be lottery, dog, you should go,'” Hardaway said on the All the Smoke podcast.
Bryant, of course, entered the draft straight out of high school and was selected in the tail-end of the lottery with the 13th pick in the draft by the Hornets, traded to the Lakers thereafter.
A well-known high school prospect at the time, it’s somewhat surprising Hardaway was unaware of him, but certainly not unheard of. After all, this was a high-schooler.
Hindsight is everything, though. This wasn’t an ordinary high-schooler, far from it. Bryant is one of the few players that was truly ready to make the leap and skip the college route, even if just for a freshman or sophomore year.
Bryant is known for storing information away to give himself a drive and to keep himself competitive. Apparently, that vault-like memory served him in high school as well, because years later once Bryant made it to the league he remembered the fact that Hardaway had no idea who he was.
“A couple years later he’s in the league, he never forgot that conversation. Magic Johnson has an All-Star game in the summer… Mid-Summer Nights. So I’m in that game and Kobe calls me out, ‘I said aw sh—, this dude remembers.’ He remembered that day in Philly.”
Hardaway noted that he got the best of Bryant in that exhibition matchup, but that it did epitomize his work ethic and his drive to prove his doubters wrong.
“All he needs is a little something to just get that momentum going. That, ‘I’m getting you back, you didn’t believe in me, you didn’t know me,’ and we went at each other in the Magic game. Obviously he was a young pup, I got the best of him in that game. But he did come to me and go, ‘you know, I want to learn, I want to be the greatest.’ And I knew then though, he was going to be unstoppable.”
Anything you gave Bryant that could be used as motivation, he would take it and run with it. It’s a big part of what made him so great. Hardaway was just one of many in his revenge bank.