Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard have a checkered past. As a member of the Magic, Howard went head-to-head against Bryant in the 2009 NBA Finals. Although they made great competitors, when Howard was traded to the Lakers years later, it was clear that their personalities didn't mesh as teammates. During his upcoming appearance on FS1's Fair Game with Kristine Leahy, Howard explained why the two were at odds.
"I just think we were on two different levels mentally," Howard said. "He hadn't never seen a person like me. Someone who could enjoy basketball but at the same time not be so [serious]. That's not me."
Howard's jovial personality didn't fit with Kobe's laser-focused mentality, which led to Dwight being traded from the Lakers after just one season. Howard's next stop was the Houston Rockets. When the Rockets faced the Lakers the season after he was traded, Howard was called for throwing an illegal elbow at Kobe. It led to a verbal altercation in which Kobe called Howard "soft."
"I kinda hated him for saying that because I looked at it the wrong way," Howard said when he recounted Kobe's comment. "I think he was more so talking about my mentality...not how I am on the court. And I didn't realize that because all the noise surrounding him saying I was soft. And I hated him. I hated him for that moment."
To make matters worse, when asked about the situation, Kobe doubled down on his comments. He issued Dwight an apology just to amend his insult and call Howard a "Teddy bear." During a 2015 interview with USA Today, Kobe explained their rift.
"I tried teaching Dwight. I tried showing him. But the reality is that when you have a perception of what it is to win a championship, and most perceptions of what it's like to win are a very outgoing, very gregarious locker room where you pick each other up and you're friends all the time. That's the perception," Kobe explained. "And I think that's what his perception was of what the idea is. But when he saw the reality of it, it made him uncomfortable. And it's very tough to be able to fight through that, to deal with that challenge. And I don't think he was willing to deal with that uncomfortable and combative nature."
Yet, now that he's removed from the situation, Dwight says that he understands why Kobe was so rigid.
"Everybody reaches different levels of maturity at different times," Howard told Leahy. "I think at that time I was ignorant to the level that he was at. So I appreciate you, Kobe. Thank you for saying I was soft. I didn't realize what you meant until now."