You’ve seen the video or GIF by now, the infamous clip of Kobe Bryant shaking his head at Dwight Howard and calling him “soft.” Something that happened after a minor scuffle between the two led to an elbow thrown by Howard in Kobe’s direction.
It was a moment during the 2014-2015 season that stood with Dwight for a long time. It was clear that their personalities didn’t mesh as teammates, which is why Dwight elected to take his talents to the Rockets and not re-sign with the Lakers.
“I just think we were on two different levels mentally,” Howard said on FS1’s Fair Game with Kristine Leahy. “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.”
As far as the 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.”
What didn’t help the moment was Kobe originally apologizing for the moment, but then doubling down by calling him a “teddy bear” during a 2015 interview.
“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.”
Now that he’s far removed from the situation, Howard now appreciates Kobe for the moment.
“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.”