‘Hope Your Daddy’s Watching’: Former Maryland Terrapins Star Reveals How Kobe Bryant Welcomed Him Into the NBA

Published 02/27/2021, 1:00 PM EST
LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 26: Laker Kobe Bryant #24 as the Lakers beat the Jazz 107-96 to win the series during game five of a first round Western Conference playoff basketball game between the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center on Monday April 27, 2009 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)


Many NCAA players come into the NBA with high expectations because of their college accolades. But often those accolades are rendered useless when they face NBA talent. Former Maryland Terrapins star D. J. Strawberry revealed how this happened to him when he faced Kobe Bryant.

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Strawberry was a defensive stalwart for the Terrapins and was also an ACC All-Defense member. After declaring for the NBA, the Phoenix Suns drafted him in the second round in 2007. He had a very minor role in the rotation but was called up for an important task when the Suns faced the Lakers on February 20, 2008.

It was also an iconic game because Shaquille O’Neal was making his debut for the Suns while facing his former team. So the game had a lot on the line for both the Lakers, as well as Shaq, as he tried to one-up them.

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Los Angeles Lakers Shaquille O’Neal, left, shares a laugh with Kobe Bryant on the bench during a pre–season game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim Thursday, October 23, 2003. (Photo by Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Strawberry was a player who barely received minutes off the bench. And he himself knew that it only happens when they faced smaller teams. Once, while watching from the bench, Strawberry was witnessing the Kobe Bryant show.

“I’m watching the show and Kobe is killing it. He hit them with the left hand, dunking, threes, I’m like okay, this is the real deal right here,” Strawberry said.

Suns give Strawberry the impossible task of guarding Kobe Bryant

But then, coach Mike D’Antoni called him up in the fourth quarter and told him to guard Kobe.

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“Oh my God, he’s got like 30. He’s cooking, there’s nothing I can do,” was his response before he entered the game with this daunting task. In his first play against Kobe, he successfully drew a charge and then made the mistake of taunting Kobe. “He’s not that real,” Strawberry said, facing the Suns’ bench.

Strawberry then described what happened next. He said, “(Kobe) pats me on my butt and said ‘I hope your daddy’s watching’ and he proceeds to give me about 12 straight points. Bucket after bucket after bucket. That’s my welcome to the league moment.”

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Strawberry barely played five minutes, but that was enough for Kobe to teach him a lesson. Kobe finished that game with 41 points while shooting 16-25 from the field and ultimately got the win for the Lakers. Strawberry didn’t play another season in the league while Kobe went on to win two successive titles a year later.

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Aaron Mathew

1462 articles

Aaron Mathew is a sports analyst at EssentiallySports. A graduate in Mass Media from Xavier’s College, Aaron has been a part of EssentiallySports since May 2020 where he covers both NBA and NCAA basketball news, and has also covered NBA 2K. In the past, Aaron has worked at the Sports Desk of Mumbai Mirror.

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