NBA superfan Jimmy Goldstein has attended thousands of Lakers games over the years. But as we found out when we interviewed him last year, he actually hates the team. He grew up cheering for the Hawks before they moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta—and he served as the team’s statistician for several seasons—so, while he’s shelled out lots of money to watch the Lakers, he doesn’t care for them.
“I didn’t grow up in L.A.,” the Milwaukee native, who relocated to Los Angeles, told us, “so I thought, ‘Why should I be a Lakers fan?’ That’s the way I looked at it.”
With that in mind, Goldstein has never had a great relationship with Kobe Bryant. He has rubbed elbows with plenty of other NBA superstars, but Goldstein says Kobe has kept his distance from him as a result of his hatred for the Lakers. However, it seems that Kobe has finally come around to showing his appreciation for Goldstein over the last couple weeks.
Goldstein just did an interview with Sports Illustrated reporter Lee Jenkins on the Open Floor Podcast and talked about how his relationship with Kobe has evolved. He started off by speaking about how Kobe has, more or less, ignored him for the last 20 years.
“Kobe definitely knew that I rooted against him and the Lakers,” Goldstein said, “and the other players on the Lakers over the years have taken it very good-heartedly and have joked with me before the games and at halftime. It didn’t bother them. But Kobe has been so competitive that he couldn’t handle it. I understood that. I didn’t hold a grudge against him because of that. I understood it completely.”
He also pointed out that, at one point, Kobe told his former teammate Pau Gasol not to talk to Goldstein during games.
“Pau Gasol, who was a very good friend of mine when he was playing with Memphis, after he joined the Lakers, he suddenly stopped talking to me,” he said. “I didn’t understand it until he came up to me during the All-Star Game, gave me a big hug, and apologized because he said Kobe didn’t want him to talk to me.”
But then, he revealed that, earlier this month, the kinder, gentler Kobe that has emerged this season went out of his way to walk over to Goldstein to say hello. The two joked about how ESPN scheduled an interview with Goldstein to talk about Kobe’s career, and ever since then, Goldstein said Kobe has been nice to him.
“About ten days ago, Kobe was coming over to say hello to someone I had been talking to, and he was standing right next to me,” Goldstein said. “I extended my hand, he extended his, big smile on his face, ‘hey Jimmy,’ and then, by coincidence, I had just been contacted by ESPN, who wanted to get a sound byte from me the next day to talk about Kobe. So I told Kobe that, that I was going to be interviewed by ESPN to talk about him, and he broke out laughing. I broke out laughing. And now, we suddenly have a friendship. The next game, he waved to me from the court with a big smile on his face. Then he shook hands with me again as he left the court. So I can see that his retirement has changed everything.”
You can check out the entire podcast below. Outside of discussing his bizarre relationship with Kobe, Goldstein also talks about chasing women with Wilt Chamberlain when he first moved to L.A., Russell Westbrook’s style, and more.
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