The talk between Kobe Bryant and Kyrie Irving was bold over the summer, when video of the two discussing a $50,000 bet over a game of one-on-one went viral. But neither side has committed to facing the other in a pickup game that would surely draw national interest.
"Him challenging me to a one-on-one game, he's confident or crazy, one or the other," Bryant said Tuesday morning prior to the Cavaliers' game against the Los Angeles Lakers. "He said he needed to get his money up a little bit and he was going to play me, but he doesn't want that problem."
Despite the trash talk, Bryant has a deep respect for Irving's game that was fostered during their time together over the summer with Team USA. Bryant was a member of the Olympic basketball team, while Irving was part of the Select team that scrimmaged the Americans daily for about a week.
"He works extremely hard and I was really impressed with him," Bryant said of Irving. "He really came to play.
"A lot of kids grow up not really believing in themselves, but he seems to believe in himself. Whether it comes from where he comes from or just his character or how he's built or a combination of his work ethic … he has that."
Bryant and Cavs coach Byron Scott were teammates during Bryant's rookie season, when Scott served as his mentor. Bryant told Scott then he wanted to be the best player in the NBA, and Scott has often said he isn't surprised Bryant is in that conversation, based on his work ethic.
As for how Bryant and Irving compare at this point in their careers, Scott said Bryant was more serious.
"Kyrie has a little bit more playfulness than Bean Bryant did. That's probably the biggest difference," Scott said. "But I think Kyrie does want to be great. It just depends on, 'What are you willing to do to get there?'?"
Lakers star Kobe Bryant respects Kyrie Irving's ability, confidence
Akron Beacon Journal | Dec 12