Magic Johnson had Larry Bird. Wilt Chamberlain had Bill Russell. Michael Jordan even had Isaiah Thomas for a time. So how did Kobe Bryant avoid having a rival through sixteen NBA seasons? One might start by asking someone like Lamar Odom.
Legacy of the Bryant Los Angeles Lakers sits tarnished by no rivalry
What defines a rival is not the same as losing the occasional championship series. Kobe has had his share of bitter defeats, losing the NBA Finals in 2004 and 2008. Yet no one remembers a singular player from those teams that haunted the Los Angeles Lakers icon year after year. There wasn't even a team from the western conference that stood up to the Lakers for more than a season like the Dallas Mavericks. The closest franchise to make that leap was Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. Rivalries however are created through mutual hatred and excellent basketball play. Everybody hated Kobe Bryant, but he had no reason to hate any other player, because he knew they weren't good enough to beat his teams. But spoiler alert on him, it wasn't all because of his skill.
Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian know about Bryant's NBA leverage
There was a time when Lamar Odom owned the title of best bench player in basketball. He used that notoriety to marry a successful if dynamic woman in Khloe Kardashian, but his success come from a source he knows well. For it was Kobe who held serve and forced Shaquille O'Neal to surrender power in L.A. and leave for Miami. Odom became of the first of several players Bryant noisily complained his team lacked until the Lakers roster resembled a group of All-Stars. Two more championships later and Kobe's voice hasn't quieted, professing he never has and never will have a true rival. At 35 years old he's probably right but Odom knows his former teammate and friend. Though busy helping the Mavericks get back on track, he had front row seats for when Bryant's crown felt threatened. Instead of accepting the challenge and taking his game to new heights, he settled for pulling the NBA strings so he could strip his opponents of their best players. Ask Memphis what happened to Pau Gasol.
Vanessa Bryant likely has her own opinions on rivals to her husband
The frankness with which Kobe speaks is nothing new. His soon-to-be ex-wife Vanessa Bryant lived with him for ten years. She knew Kobe the player and Kobe the man. While they try to reconcile their marital difference, her time spent watching the future Hall of Fame guard should shed light on why he never had a rival. It wasn't because other players weren't good enough. Perhaps, like their marriage, he hit a ceiling he never had to go past.
Lamar Odom and Vanessa Bryant won't show the dirty laundry on Kobe Bryant, but for him to say he never had a rival sounds more blind arrogance than truth. After all, this is the same man who stated he had no idea who Jeremy Lin was right before Linsanity lit up his team for 38 points. Even Khloe Kardashian admits when some things are off, but not Kobe. He'll admit to his dying day that despite rape allegations and two championship defeats, he's as good as Michael Jordan and will never have an equal until he retires.