In the early 2000s, the Los Angeles Lakers were a powerhouse in the NBA. They had Shaquille O'Neal in his prime and an up-and-coming superstar in Kobe Bryant. While everyone will mostly remember the dysfunctional partnership between O'Neal and Bryant, one incident that was largely overshadowed during this time was when Bryant punched one of his teammates in the eye because of an unpaid debt.

On February 21st, 2002, the Lakers played a harmless game of shooting half-court shots after a practice during their road trip. It was a simple $100 wager where the person who could hit a half-court shot first gets the entire pot. The only other rule the game had was that everyone who joined had to pay the winner $100 within 48 hours.

Why did Kobe Bryant punch his teammate over $100?

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (right) talks with guard Derek Fisher (left) during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center. The Lakers defeated the Bucks 118-107
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

In one practice, Samaki Walker wanted in on the fun where Bryant won the game. As a new player to the Lakers, he thought the bet was playful banter. However, the following day, as the team boarded the bus for shootaround, Kobe got a little impatient.

He approached Walker about the unpaid bet. Walker shrugged him off and told him:

“I gotta get it to you later. I don’t have it on me.” Walker said.

As a player who earned $10 million that season, Bryant could've simply ignored the $100 and moved on. Instead, he chose violence and responded by punching Walker in his right eye. Walker countered by throwing his discman at Bryant's head, but before the situation could escalate even further, O'Neal's bodyguard intervened by bear hugging Walker and Phil Jackson had the driver stop the bus.

This sort of incident had all the makings of something that could've ruined a team's chemistry, but the Lakers came out a better team from it. The Lakers secured their third straight championship that season which was also the only championship Walker ever won in his career.

Bryant and Walker remained good friends even though Walker left the team a season later. Bryant was a frequent donor to Walker's foundation by sending him some of his memorabilia. After all, it sounds like that's the least he could do after he gave Walker a black eye over a playful bet. But it was a quick lesson for everyone involved that when it comes to anything competitive, Kobe didn't mess around.