Karl Malone, one of the greatest Power Forwards in NBA history, regrets playing only one season with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers before retiring from the sport in 2004.
In 2003-04, Malone and Gary Payton joined Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in a Super Team that nearly gave the Mail Man his first championship until Detroit Pistons spoiled their party in the Finals.
“No disrespect to any of my teammates in Utah. I had some great ones. Every now and then you run across maybe 4 or 5 players and you say ‘God, I wished I played more with that guy instead of just that one year’. It was awesome (to even play that one year). I got to know him really good as a person. I’m proud of him. I just regret not playing more with him,” Malone told ESPN in an interview.
While Malone retired after that eventful season, Payton joined the Boston Celtics and Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat. That Super Team, which had the potential to win multiple championships, was disbanded after just one season due to irreconcilable personal and professional differences.
When Jazz swept the Lakers…
During the 1998 Western Conference Finals, a 19-year-old Bryant ran into the mighty Utah Jazz led by Malone and John Stockton. As expected, the Jazz swept the Lakers and progressed to the NBA Finals. But Malone knew that Bryant was destined for greatness.
“There is one thing that sticks in my mind about Kobe Bryant. I think it was his second or third year. We swept them (Lakers). I remember after the game, just shaking his hands, and he had a look that you just don’t see. It was like ‘you are going to see me again’. It was a look that I can’t put into words.
“He (Bryant) wasn’t one of those young men just glad to be there. He took it personally. And he worked hard in the summer time and we did see him a lot more,” added Malone.
Karl Malone controversy involving Vanessa…
Also, Malone and Bryant were involved in an off-the-court controversy that involved the former apparently “hitting on” the latter’s wife, Vanessa. Back in November 2004, Bryant’s agent told ESPN.com that Karl Malone made “several inappropriate comments” to Bryant’s wife.
It’s well documented that Bryant and Malone nearly came to blows during a dressing room incident. Many years later, they reportedly buried the hatchet and moved on. Back in 2004, Shaquille O’Neal expressed shock at Malone and Bryant’s feud.
“I’m very surprised how it came out, but I’ve never seen anything like that before. I thought him and Karl were best friends. Karl was always the liaison between me and that guy. I was under the impression they were closer than what they were,” O’Neal told the Miami Herald.
With Kobe Bryant set to retire on Wednesday, the sporting world is coming together to pay homage to one of the greatest. And luckily, the negative stories are being put on the backburner.