For a player like Kobe Bryant, it doesn't take much to get him motivated to defeat an opposing team. He had many battles with other future Hall of Famers, but the one most people don't seem to remember is how he was once triggered in an All-Star Game to make sure he'd never let George Karl get the better of him in a playoff series.
Why Kobe Bryant had beef with George Karl
It started back in 1998 during Bryant's first All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden. Despite averaging only 15.4 points and coming off the bench for the majority of the season, Bryant earned the starting shooting guard spot in the Western Conference.
At 19 years old, Bryant showed he was more than ready for the bright lights that most fans assumed this game would be a passing of the torch moment between Bryant and his idol Michael Jordan. The two went toe-to-toe through the first three quarters with Bryant finishing with 22 points in 18 minutes. Meanwhile, Jordan had 22 points in 27 minutes. The game was a 23-point blowout heading to the 4th quarter, but Jordan still checked back into the game. The same couldn't be said for Bryant though as he was benched the entire quarter.
When Bryant was asked if he was disappointed that he never got back in the game, he did keep it professional: “Nah, not really. I just wanted to come out here and have some fun, I had that fun, and I was able to rest a little bit,” Bryant said.
But when he was asked about it again 20 years later when he appeared in an episode of The Knuckleheads podcast of Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson, Bryant's answer was very different.
“George Karl in later years became my motivation every time we played against Denver (Nuggets) to never let them win a playoff series because he never played me the entire 4th quarter of that game.”
What did Kobe Bryant do to get his revenge against Karl?
True to his word, in the three times Bryant faced the Nuggets in the playoffs with Karl as the team's head coach, the Nuggets never won a series. They would get swept by the Lakers in 2008, lose in six games in the Western Conference finals in 2009, and lose in seven games in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.
In the three series combined, Kobe Bryant averaged 32 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds.