Kobe Bryant admits to hating the Suns, passes the torch to Devin Booker

Mar 24, 2016, 1:03 AM | Updated: 11:03 am

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) dishes around Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker during t...

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) dishes around Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

Kobe Bryant’s back-and-forth of 87 volleys with the Phoenix Suns finally came to an end Wednesday night, and so the Los Angeles Lakers legend could finally speak his mind.

After scoring 17 points against the Suns in a 119-107 loss, the future Hall of Fame guard let us know what we all imagine burned inside him through his 20 seasons in the NBA, facing a Pacific Division rival.

Yes, a true rival.

“It was two years that they knocked us out and we just had some unbelievable games here. That was a real rivalry to me,” Bryant told the Phoenix media after his final game in the Valley. “The Sacramento one wasn’t one because we beat them every time. Phoenix, I mean, they kicked our butts and we had to bounce back and overcome them. That’s a true rivalry.

“There’s no misunderstanding, there’s no wiggle room there. I hated them, absolutely,” he added. “They stopped me from getting a championship…twice. Damn right, I hated them: Raja (Bell) Steve (Nash), all of those good guys. No question, but at the same time I loved them because they brought the best out of me and my teammates, so the relationship is a love-hate relationship because I hated the fact that they were that good. They kept us from winning, but at the same time, I loved how good they were and I knew we had to be better. It’s a love-hate relationship.”

The now-softened Bryant has led his farewell tour far from the isolated, cold killer he fashioned his brand after through the years. This wasn’t the Black Mamba and hasn’t been since Bryant announced earlier this season that 2015-16 would be his last.

Bryant is giving back and has all year long, meeting with young stars, handing out advice and becoming an open book.

Following the Suns’ victory, after Bryant’s 17 points and minus-23 plus-minus became quite the opposite as Suns rookie Devin Booker’s 28 points, seven assists and plus-23 box score plus-minus, the Lakers star asked the Phoenix rookie to speak with him after the game.

There, Bryant gave a gift — a signed pair of shoes with a message.

“Be legendary.”

Booker, in his first and only meeting against a childhood idol, soaked it all in.

Even during the game, it was clear Booker cherished the moment. On his first touch with Bryant defending him in the first quarter, the Suns rookie caught the ball on the right post with the legend on his back. He took a few dribbles to back in, then off one leg let a clearly-Bryant-influenced fadeaway go.

It was a miss.

“It’s just something I will remember for the rest of my life and I can tell my kids about,” said the 19-year-old. “I remember me catching the ball and I had it in kind of the short post. And I missed the shot but I used one of his moves against him and that’s the first thing he said against me. ‘You’re trying to use my own move against me?’ He said that right at the end of the game, so it was fun. That was the only time we matched up but like I said it’s something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

And in the end, Bryant showed little emotion as far as the Lakers loss was concerned. As he departed with just more than a minute left, he waved to a sold-out Talking Stick Resort Arena standing ovation.

Then, he officially passed the torch to Booker.

“I think the most important thing about my career is being able to pass it on and have the next generation of athletes embody the same spirit and learn some of the same techniques and have that same mindset,” Bryant said. “That’s the coolest thing to me. Playing against Booker tonight, I mean he went straight to my move the first time he caught it. ‘You don’t have to beat me on my move man!’ But it was great to see, it was absolutely great to see because I remember I did the same thing with MJ.”

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) embraces Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker before coming out of the NBA basketball game during the second half, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. The Suns won 119-107. (AP Photo/Matt York) 
              Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) sits alone on the bench after being introduced prior to an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
            
              Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) signals the basket is good during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
            Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives past Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace (37) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. The Suns won 119-107. (AP Photo/Matt York) Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) leaves the court during the second half for the final time of the NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. The Suns won 119-107 in Bryant's last game in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) takes the court for the last time in his career against the Phoenix Suns prior to an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) reacts to a turnover during the second half of the Lakers' NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. The Suns won 119-107. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) drives as Los Angeles Lakers center Roy Hibbert, right, defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. The Suns won 119-107. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns forward Jon Leuer (30) shoots over Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Bass (2) during the second half of an NBA basketball game,Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. The Suns won 119-107. (AP Photo/Matt York) Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) dishes around Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant leaves the court after the Lakers' NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. The Suns won 119-107 in Bryant's final game in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) drives against Phoenix Suns forward Jon Leuer during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle, right, shoots over Phoenix Suns forward Jon Leuer during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) shoots over Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Fans hold signs and take pictures of Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant prior to an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns forward Jon Leuer, left, steals the ball from Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) falls after being fouled against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) is fouled by Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns center Alex Len, left, looks to pass the ball as Los Angeles Lakers center Roy Hibbert, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Phoenix Suns head coach Earl Watson makes a call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant acknowledges the fans during a time out in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant leaves the court for the final time of the game during the second half of the Lakers' NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Phoenix. The Suns won 119-107 in Bryant's final game in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Most Popular

Rich Strike, with Sonny Leon aboard, crosses the finish line to win the 148th running of the Kentuc...

Associated Press

Kentucky Derby runs into more obstacles ahead of big race

The cast for the 149th Kentucky Derby was rewritten again hours before the race Saturday when early favorite Forte was scratched.

28 days ago

Jesus Ferreira #9 of the United States celebrates after scoring a goal in front of the American Out...

Associated Press

Ferreira goal gives USA exhibition tie against Mexico at State Farm Stadium

The United States tied against Mexico 1-1 on Wednesday night in an exhibition at State Farm Stadium in Glendale.

1 month ago

Associated Press

Aryna Sabalenka wins 1st Grand Slam title at Australian Open

Aryna Sabalenka won her first Grand Slam title by coming back to beat Elena Rybakina in the Australian Open women’s final.

4 months ago

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 10: Zamir White #3 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates his touchdown...

Associated Press

UGA football player killed in car wreck after title celebration

UGA OL Devin Willock and a recruiting staff member were killed early Sunday in a car wreck, the school said.

5 months ago

Phoenix Suns forward Charles Barkley shoots over Houston Rockets forward Robert Horry during the fi...

Kevin Zimmerman

The Suns’ and Cardinals’ most notable Christmas games

The Arizona Cardinals and Phoenix Suns have played in their fair share of Christmas games. Many have been significant for varying reasons.

5 months ago

Associated Press

France beats Morocco, sets up date with Messi, Argentina in World Cup final

Soccer's latest superstar against perhaps the sport's greatest player in the World Cup final just about everyone was hoping for.

6 months ago

Kobe Bryant admits to hating the Suns, passes the torch to Devin Booker