Things got so crazy during a Lakers team bus ride one year that head coach Phil Jackson had to get it pulled over to the side of the road in Cleveland in 2002.
The quarrel between Kobe Bryant and Samaki Walker has been told before, but now we are getting vivid details from Jeff Pearlman’s new book, “Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty.” This all stems from Bryant winning a half-court shot contest and Walker not immediately paying him the $100.
The Lakers’ rule was that players had 48 hours to pay the winner of the shooting contest $100, but Bryant found himself having to ask Walker for his money the next morning on the bus to shootaround. According to an excerpt from Pearlman’s book on FiveThirtyEight, Walker pretty much ignored Bryant before waving him off completely, stating he’d give him the money when he had it. That’s when Bryant unleashed a punch that caught Walker’s right eye.
“Jerome Crawford, [Shaquille] O’Neal’s King Kong Bundy-esque bodyguard and constant companion, charges from five rows up,” Pearlman wrote. “He wraps Walker in a bear hug, but not before Walker launches his Discman at Bryant’s head. Not surprisingly, the career 63 percent free throw shooter misses.”
Shaq, who was beefing with Kobe at the time, encouraged Walker to “f–k him [Bryant] up,” according to the book. Walker asked head coach Phil Jackson to stop the bus so he could handle the situation:
“Bryant ignored his teammate.
“That’s what I thought,” Walker says. A pause. “You little b–ch.”
Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January, later apologized to Walker, both in a voicemail and in person, Pearlman reported in the book.”
“I appreciate a guy who has the mentality of a Kobe Bryant,” Walker said on the “Brown and Scoop” show. “I learned a lot watching him, and for that, I’m thankful.”