Kobe Bryant and Corey Maggette came to the league as youngsters and made a name for themselves playing in Los Angeles
The untimely passing of Kobe Bryant shook up the entire NBA. As one of the icons in the sport, he had relationships with many, while influencing countless others.
Corey Maggette was found in a somewhat unique situation where he saw him as someone to look up to, an opponent, and eventually, a friend. Bryant graduated just a couple years before Maggette from high school, and they would eventually evolve into competitors at the highest level.
Maggette has opened up a bit about Bryant since his passing earlier this year. He has also spent some time reminiscing on their battles, and how these two guys stood out in Los Angeles for so many years.
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By the spring of 1986, Kobe Bryant was the most known high school basketball player in the country. Not only was he a local legend in the Philadelphia area, but he would soon be known in the NBA circles as a first-round pick right out of high school.
Two years later, a similarly sized wing player from Chicago would emerge as one of the best in the country as well. Maggette did not opt to jump straight to the pros out of high school though. Instead, he to the same college that Bryant heavily considered: Duke.
After just one year at Duke, Maggette declared himself eligible for the NBA. His rookie year was spent with the Orlando Magic, but a trade to the Clippers quickly put Maggette into a direct competition with Bryant.
Anyone who follows the NBA knows that Lakers usually got the better of the Clippers, but Maggette’s squad did find a way to take advantage of them during their lean years. The two would compete hard on the court, but did workout at times in the offseason.
Kobe Bryant will always be remembered as a lifelong Los Angeles Laker now, but that was not precisely the case around 2004. Bryant had an opportunity to leave the Lakers and look for a different chance to win championships, and he seriously considered the team in the same city.
It might seem far-fetched now, but Maggette and Bryant shared the same agent in Rob Pelinka. That move would automatically give the Clippers one of the most talented duos on the wings in the NBA, and it would have freed Maggette up to get a lot more solid looks. It was often a grind for Maggette to score during the prime of his career, and playing second fiddle to Bryant could have really helped both.
Some people believe that Bryant joining the Clippers was never really going to happen, but it was used as a way to scare the Los Angeles Lakers about losing the guy they have relied on for so long. Whether or not that was exactly the case, it never actually happened, so Bryant and Maggette remained rivals on the court.
One epic battle
After the Lakers held onto Bryant, the two Los Angeles teams continue to have a rivalry to a certain extent. The Lakers were always perceived as the better team, but towards the end of the 2007 season, Maggette had perhaps the best game of his career.
The 2007 season was not one of Maggette’s best, as he only started about half the games that year. He was coming off an injury-riddled season the year before, but he was back to full strength by the end of the year.
As for Bryant, he was finishing off a year where he averaged 31.6 points per game. He would win his second scoring title in a row, and he had a stretch earlier that year where he scored 50 or more points in four consecutive games.
Bryant would end up scoring 50 points in this battle, often going head-to-head with Corey Maggette. The two players guard each other at times, and neither could stop the other. Maggette finished with 39 points and more importantly, the win. Many claim this to be Maggette’s best individual game of his career.
Maggette was obviously pretty close to Bryant throughout his life, so the tragic death hit him hard. He was more than willing to share some interesting stories with media to help show the lighter side Bryant, such as the time Kobe swam with sharks to prepare for a season. Even though they played for different teams, they were two of the most athletic guys in Los Angeles during the 2000s.