Lakers Legend Jerry West Reveals How He Ribbed Kobe Bryant About His ‘Black Mamba’ Nickname

Published 05/12/2021, 1:00 PM EDT
LO SANGELES, CALIFORNIA FEBRUARY 3, 2010–Lakers Kobe Bryant shakes hands with Jerry West during a ceremony at half court to honor Kobe’s record for most points by a Laker at the Staples Center Wednesday. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


Kobe Bryant was one of the most legendary players in the history of the NBA. During his near two-decade-long career, Bryant defied expectations and made incredible moments. Bryant was one of the most mercurial talents in the NBA, and his mentality was the stuff of legends. Dubbing it the ‘Mamba Mentality’, Kobe was a killer on the court, equipped with a merciless mindset in every game. But one Lakers legend even mocked him for it.

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When Jerry West poked fun at Kobe Bryant

LA Clippers executive and former Lakers legend Jerry West spoke in an interview with Peter Vecsey about Kobe Bryant. He noted that he ribbed Kobe Bryant about his ‘Mamba Mentality’ and ‘Black Mamba’ nickname. During his career, West also had a similar nickname, going by ‘The Viper’. But he did warn Bryant that there is one animal that the Black Mamba cannot defeat – a mongoose, that West claimed to be.

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“Kobe and I used to argue all the time about whose nickname is more poisonous – Black Mamba or The Viper. I used to kid him about – I said, ‘in this world, there is an animal that kills every black viper. It’s called the mongoose. The Black Mamba never wins a battle against the mongoose’. I was a mongoose.”

Kobe became the greatest Laker ever

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Clearly, West was having his fun at the expense of Kobe Bryant. But the two shared a very close relationship. After his playing career, Jerry West transitioned into being an executive. He was an executive with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996, and he made the decision to execute a trade and bring Kobe Bryant to the Lakers through the draft. West ensured that the Lakers’ future would be secure for the next two decades.

Jerry West, GM, Kobe Bryant and Head Coach Del Harris (Photo by Steve Grayson/WireImage)
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Despite all of his potential, the Lakers could never have imagined how great Kobe Bryant turned out to be. In just four years after his debut, he won his first NBA championship. He and Shaquille O’Neal formed an impressive tandem together and had amazing success. They won three consecutive NBA titles together. After Shaq’s departure, Kobe formed another impressive duo with Pau Gasol, winning two more NBA titles before calling time on his legendary NBA career a few years later.

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Aaditya Krishnamurthy

1313 articles

Aaditya Krishnamurthy is an NBA & NFL journalist for EssentiallySports, before which he worked at BusinessWorld magazine. He has been a fan of Basketball for over 10 years now, since Shaquille O’Neal was a Phoenix Suns player. During his time at Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, he started a sports magazine for the college called the Overtime Tribune and hosted the Overtime Tribune Podcast until he graduated.

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