Allen Iverson pens heartfelt letter to Kobe Bryant: ‘I love you, brother’

The Philadelphia 76'ers icon pays tribute to Kobe Bryant, the player he says was his toughest competitor

Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant had legendary battles over the years. (Photo: Getty Images)

On June 26, 1996, the NBA held its 50th draft. The reason it’s still being talked about today as one of the deepest draft classes in NBA history is mostly because of two men – Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant.

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Though Marcus Camby, Ray Allen, Stephon Marbury, Jermaine O’Neal and Steve Nash were also drafted that year, (and Ben Wallace became a star for the Pistons though he went undrafted that year) that draft is arguably best remembered for its two biggest stars.

Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Allen Iverson #1 of the Detroit Pistons dive for a loose ball on November 14, 2008, at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Pistons won 106-95. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Iverson and Bryant competed throughout the next 14 years. In 2001, their teams played each other in the NBA Finals, with Bryant ultimately securing his second NBA championship.

As the world celebrated the late Mamba on “Mamba Day”, the day after what would have been his 42nd birthday on Sunday, August 23, Iverson penned his own tribute to the NBA icon who died earlier this year in a helicopter crash.

In an essay for The Player’s Tribune, Iverson remembered the joy both men took in their fierce, but friendly competition.

“You were the toughest man that I’ve ever seen in this game,” Iverson wrote.

“The most cold-blooded serial killer I’ve ever seen. The fiercest competitor I’ve ever seen. I remember hearing the story that you were on the road, and you were watching the highlights of me dropping 35 on the Knicks at the Garden our rookie year, and you got so mad that you smashed up the hotel room and you started researching me like you were in the CIA. “GET ME THE FILE ON A.I.” — I bet it was like that.”

Iverson talked about the respect he had for both Michael Jordan, who he refers to as “Black Jesus”, and Bryant, who he said was the second-greatest NBA player of all time after Jordan.

He shared how he felt when he attended Bryant’s retirement ceremony at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, seeing Bryant be honored after a two-decade, five-championship career he spent with just one team.

Iverson said that he had problems getting down to the court to congratulate Bryant, joking that Staples Center security treated the former Sixers star like they were the team who won the chip in 2001. But when he did get to the floor, Iverson says it was worth it to pay respect to his NBA colleague.

“Man, when I finally got onto the floor and I gave you a hug, and you were holding your baby girl in your arms … that was a moment that I’ll never forget. I was just happy to be there. I was happy to be a part of the legacy that is Kobe Bean Bryant,” he wrote.

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant hugs Allen Iverson at halftime after both of Bryant’s #8 and #24 Los Angeles Lakers jerseys are retired at Staples Center on December 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Iverson previously shared the impact Bryant’s death had on him and how much he was impacted by Bryant’s famous work ethic, even though he acknowledges that he didn’t always share it.

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The 2001 NBA Finals was the only one that Iverson ever played in. He retired from the NBA as a Philadelphia 76er in 2010, playing his last year of professional basketball overseas. An 11-time NBA All-Star, Iverson was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

Bryant will be posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame on Aug. 29th.

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