“Kobe Bryant’s Desire to Fit in”: Accused of Rehearsing ‘Freestyle Rap,” Mamba Faced Ridicule From Shaquille O’Neal


Kobe Bryant was a man who in many ways personified the phrase “My way or the highway”. He was a stalwart of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise, meaning most people hung on his every word. But, back in 1996, Kobe was the one trying to fit in. A rookie with the purple and gold, he would do anything to earn some respect. Including rehearsing a “freestyle” rap and getting called out by Shaquille O’Neal.

During his rookie season, the Lakers were Shaquille O’Neal’s team. After all, Shaq wasn’t just a superstar on the court. He was a superstar off of it as well. The man had several talents, each one of which gravitated people toward him. And, back during Kobe’s rookie season, that was the case.

The team was on the bus when a rapping session kicked off, and of course, Big Diesel was spitting some bars. The team was enjoying itself, and the Black Mamba took note. So, a few days later, when the rapping started again, he chimed in. But, Shaq realized something was wrong, and ridiculed young Kobe for it.

Kobe Bryant was ridiculed by Shaquille O’Neal and Co. for rehearsing a rap

As a rookie, it’s only natural that you would be willing to do anything to fit in. Hence, the ritual of rookie hazing came into being. But, that was not something a prideful 18-year-old Kobe Bryant was willing to do. With that in mind, what did he do to get that sense of belonging?

Well, as told in The Ringer’s podcast Book of Basketball 2.0, hosted by Bill Simmons, Kobe decided to freestyle rap. Except, he did it the only way he knew how. He went home worked hard on it and rehearsed an entire performance.

So, when Shaq and the gang got to rapping, Bryant involved himself. However, O’Neal caught onto what was going on and called him out. Obviously panicked, Kobe claimed it was all “off the dome”, but no one was buying it. The ridicule followed shortly, leaving the young man visibly upset. But, as Rick Fox stated, Kobe’s desire to fit in came from his highly competitive nature.

Fox: “Kobe’s desire to fit in always came from a competitive place. In other words, if I can be better at this thing that we’re all doing or that you’re trying to do, then you’re going to have to respect me and then you’re going to have to let me in, right?”

That’s all it really came down to. However, with a high degree of competitiveness comes a strong aversion to losing. So, it comes as no surprise that Kobe tried his hand at rapping again.

Kobe tried to burst onto the rapping scene with his album Visions LP

Being shamed by Shaquille O’Neal and the rest of his Lakers teammates wasn’t enough for Kobe Bryant. In true Black Mamba fashion, he was determined not to lose. So, unbeknownst to many, he continued to work on his bars, and in 2000 he planned on releasing his album Visions LP.

Unfortunately, the album’s debut single K.O.B.E did not sit well with Columbia Records. After that, the album was swapped under the rug along with any chance of a rap career. A good thing too. It’s clear that rapping wasn’t his thing and given the quality of his single, who knows how it might have affected his career.


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