Kobe Bryant stories you haven’t heard before on NBC Sports’ Uncovered podcast

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It feels like, in the year since his tragic and shocking death, we have heard all the Kobe Bryant stories.

Kobe the prodigy. Kobe the young buck. Kobe the champion. Kobe and the mamba mentality. Kobe the mentor. Kobe the girl dad.

But there are stories you probably have not heard, and the latest episode of the Sports Uncovered podcast from NBC Sports — which drops Jan. 21 — has them.

The podcast is titled: Sports Uncovered: My favorite Kobe story.

It is a must-listen as they explore the complex and fascinating person that was Kobe Bean Bryant.

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

For example, you probably know the story of the game in 2002 when Kobe took 47 shots against the Boston Celtics (and shot 17-47). When he was asked after the game if he felt he had to take that many with Shaquille O’Neal out that night, Kobe’s response was both brutal and vintage Kobe.

“No,” he said. “I felt like I had a better chance at making a shot 1-on-5 as opposed if my teammates were wide open.”

The story you probably haven’t heard is from the next day at practice, as told by Laker teammate (and future NBA coach) Brian Shaw to Tom Haberstroh:

“So we get back to L.A. and we’re watching film, and Phil Jackson piped in the interview as part of the film session. And then said, ‘how do you guys feel about what your teammate said about you?’ And Rick Fox stood up and he got real emotional and he was like, ‘Man, how do you think that makes us feel?’ and was going off on Kobe. And Kobe just looked at him right in the eyes and said, ‘Rick, you can get mad all you want, but that’s really how I feel.’…

“And so I had to kind of take a step back and in a weird way, it makes you feel like, you know what, if you gotta go in a fox hole with somebody, that’s the mentality of a guy you want to have that feels that he can take everybody out by himself.”

The podcast is filled with those kinds of stories. It has former Oregon and current WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu discussing her eulogy at Kobe and Gigi Bryant’s memorial. It has Olympic gold medalists Usain Bolt and April Ross.

It has Shane Battier — one of the many “Kobe stoppers” over the years who had limited success in that role — talking about his face-guarding technique on defending Bryant. Did it work?

“Well, the answer is, in the end it worked. But not for the reasons you think. I knew that Kobe, being the alpha male he was, would never admit to that technique having an effect on him. And he will go out of his way to show the world that this technique didn’t work. That he was impervious to it. How is the only way to disprove that theory? By taking more mid-range jumpers, which was his weakness. And so, he may have hit more, but he took away his best shot which was driving into the paint, drawing fouls, kicking to teammates, finishing at an unbelievable rate, just to prove me wrong.”

Interviews on the podcast include Kobe’s Lower Merion High School head coach Gregg Downer, through people who covered him in the NBA. Marc Spears, now of The Undefeated at ESPN, talks about how Kobe studied and prepped for everything — including meeting fans after the game.

Spears describes how Kobe got a “scouting report” on a 7-year-old named Cameron with a speech impediment that he met after a game at Staples Center.

“Kobe comes out the locker room and yells, ‘Where’s Cameron at? Where’s Cameron at?’ Cameron sheepishly puts his hand up like, here I am. Goes up to him, Cameron’s like frozen, his friends are frozen. He hugs Cameron, and he hugged like his two friends. And then he asked them how they’re doing at school and asks them if they play basketball and gives them some basketball motivational words.”

Kobe impacted Cameron’s life in ways he may not have ever realized.

“So all of a sudden, it went across the school, that Cameron knew Kobe. And the big kid, the shy kid who had dealt with this speech impediment when he was a child, all sudden the whole school was wanting to be his friend. Just cause he knew Kobe Bryant.”

There is so much more, such as LA Times columnist LZ Granderson talking about the growth of Kobe after he used — and paid a fine for — an anti-gay slur to insult referee Bennie Adams during a game in 2011.

“By 2014, I would say Kobe’s worldview had shifted from one of someone who didn’t necessarily have a problem with gay people, to someone who spoke up on behalf of gay people.”

The stories go on and on, like Kobe torching Isaiah “J.R.” Rider in after practice, and much more.

Check out the Sports Uncovered podcast from NBC Sports, and spend some time remembering Kobe as one of the great personalities in sport.

Bradley Beal says there were no teams in free agency where he could have contended

Washington Wizards v Charlotte Hornets
Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images
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Bradley Beal got his bag this summer — a $215 million max contract that includes a no-trade clause.

That signing was expected, with the teams that could have made bold moves to land him getting the impression he was not going anywhere. Which makes Beal’s explanation of his decision on the “No Chill with Gilbert Arenas Podcast” interesting (hat tip TalkBasket).

“There were no teams in the market, free agency-wise. I’m just being frank. There was nowhere else for me to go where I can be like, ‘Oh, I can go win.’ It was teams that strategically wasn’t what I wanted. So realistically, I wouldn’t say my hand was forced, but this was my best decision and best option on the table at the time.”

That’s not how it works. Technically he is correct, the teams with cap space this past summer — the ones that could sign him outright, such as the Spurs — were not going to contend for anything with or without Beal.

But teams create cap space all the time to get players they want, via trades/waiving players or other moves (for example a sign-and-trade). If Beal and his agent had put the word out that he was leaving Washington and wanted to go to a contender, teams from Miami to Los Angeles would have been poised to do whatever it would have taken to land him. There are countless examples of this around the league over the years, but to stick with the Miami theme, remember the Heat had to dump the salaries of Hassan Whiteside (they got back Moe Harkless and flipped him) and Josh Richardson to create the space for a sign-and-trade to get Jimmy Butler (which hard capped the Heat for a season). Teams will do what it takes to land superstars, Beal had options if he wanted to leave.

He didn’t want to go anywhere. Beal has said before that he wants to win on his own terms in our nation’s capital and has backed that up with his actions. He talked up the Wizards on the same Gilbert Arenas podcast.

“Not everybody gives you a voice in the organization. I have a voice here. I never had a chance to fully play a year with [Kristaps Porzingis]. That enticed me. He’s probably the best big I’ve played with. I like [Kyle Kuzma’s] ability to be able to spread his wings a little bit more, develop into the player that we think he can be. I like the young core that we were developing. Rui [Hachimura] is really good, had an awesome summer. Deni’s [Avdija] just gonna continue to get better. And then Corey’s [Kispert] a knockdown shooter, who is a pro’s pro. We still need to get better. I’m not sitting here saying, ‘We’re gonna hold up the Larry. We’re going to beat Milwaukee tomorrow.’ No. But to have the pieces we have, we have enough to know that we can compete on a nightly basis with no BS.”

That’s an optimistic view of the Wizards, who are 11-12 and 19th in the league in both offense and defense. The Wizards can be good but their margin for error night-to-night is minimal — they have to play their best game every night to have a chance. It’s a lot to ask.

Beal got what he wanted and nobody should ever question him for making the most money he could (Washington could always offer more and more guaranteed years than any other team). If he does want to leave someday, with his no-trade clause Beal has complete control over where he would land. It’s all a good deal. Just don’t say there weren’t other options available last summer.

Floyd Mayweather says he’s trying to buy NBA team, has offered $2 billion

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“Money” Floyd Mayweather lives up to his nickname — he was money in the ring and earned a lot of it as the greatest boxer of a generation.

Now the legend is willing to spend it to own an NBA team.

Mayweather said at a recent public event he was working to buy an NBA team and has made a $2 billion offer for one.

“I’ve been working on buying a NBA team outright. One of my other business partners, Brent Johnson, he’s here. So we’ve been working on the NBA team for a while now. It’s kinda, it’s rough…

“It could be the Vegas franchise. It could be the Seattle franchise or I could be buying a franchise that’s already up and running. So the first offer, we offered them a little over $2 billion for majority ownership. Do I have it? Absolutely, I have it, but it didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen overnight. It’s a lot when you have so many different businesses all around the world. It’s a lot.”

The only NBA team publicly known to be for sale is the Phoenix Suns and the sale price for that will be well above $2 billion (some estimates suggest double that number). Portland is not currently for sale but is expected to be available in the coming years, and other franchises may pop up on the market as well, but the price for any of those may be above $2 billion. As for potential expansion teams (which are likely headed to Seattle and Las Vegas), those are years away according to league sources, with the vote to approve them a few years out at least, followed by a couple of years of ramp-up. Also, the entry price to get into those is going to be well above $2 billion.

Mayweather says he has the money. He said a year ago his net worth was above $1.2 billion, but there is no formal tracking for these things, it could be higher or lower. Either way, with the price of NBA franchises today, he likely needs to bring in other investors as $2 billion will be on the low end of a sale price.

How the controversies of Mayweather’s past — including domestic violence and homophobic comments — play out in his ownership bid is another unknown. We know the NBA vets its owners and considers such things.

It may be a long shot, but Mayweather wants to buy an NBA team, which could be very entertaining for fans.

Watch Rudy Gobert get ejected for tripping Thunder’s Williams

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Already without Karl-Anthony Towns, the Timberwolves were without their second twin tower for most of Saturday night after Rudy Gobert got ejected for kicking and tripping the Thunder’s Kenrich Williams.

Early in the second quarter, Williams was driving to the rim and Gobert was there to contest it, and with the contact Williams went to the ground, then Gobert tripped over him and fell. As Williams started to get back up and try to get down the court, Gobert kicked Williams’ legs out from under him, tripping Williams. A brief scuffle followed.

The referees reviewed the play (it didn’t take long) and ultimately Gobert was given a flagrant 2 and ejected, while Williams got a technical. The refs got that one right.

The game was chippy the whole way through, but going against a smaller Timberwolves front line the Thunder picked up a 135-128 win behind 33 from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Watch Simons puts up career-best 45, carry Portland past Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) —  Anfernee Simons scored a career-high 45 points and blocked a potential 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds left to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 116-111 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.

“I wanted to be aggressive and set the tone for my teammates,” Simons said. “Early on, let them know that we are in this game and I’m going to do whatever it takes for us to win it.”

The Jazz led 111-110 after Kelly Olynyk‘s twisting jumper and then had a chance to tie it at 114, but Simons swiped the ball from Jordan Clarkson as he rose for a 3-point attempt from the right angle.

“I just tried to catch him before he went up. … Kind of a risky play, but I’m glad I got it,” Simons said with a chuckle.

The Trail Blazers had lost seven of their last eight games before winning this thriller as Damian Lillard missed his seventh game with a lower right leg injury.

Portland’s Jerami Grant scored 13 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter as the Jazz swarmed Simons.

Jusuf Nurkic had 15 points and 14 rebounds and Trendon Watford finished with a career-high 14 rebounds, too.

The Jazz held Simons to just one field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, but he hit two free throws with 29.2 seconds to play, giving Portland a 112-111 lead. Grant added four free throws in the final 6.4 seconds for the final margin.

“Ant got it going early and we just kind of rode him, rode him, rode him. And then obviously Jerami was going,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said.

Clarkson had 24 points, and Lauri Markkanen added 21 for the Jazz, but committed two turnovers in the final 35.7 seconds. Collin Sexton scored 19 points and Jarred Vanderbilt had a season-high 16 for Utah.

Portland led 107-101 on Grant’s 3-pointer with 4:12 to play, but Sexton scored five quick points in 10-3 run that was highlighted by Markkanen’s block of Simon’s drive in the final minute.

Simons scored 23 points in the first quarter – a season high for Simons, as well as any Blazers player in any quarter. Simons had 22 in the third quarter against Denver on Oct. 24.

By halftime, Simons had 33 points and the Blazers led 69-60.

“You have to come out in the very beginning and try to set the tone. Doesn’t matter that it’s the second night of a back-to-back. They came out with an aggressiveness and a physicality that we didn’t (have),” Utah coach Will Hardy said.

Simons became the third Trail Blazer in the last decade to score 45 points, joining Lillard and CJ McCollum. He wanted more.

“In the back of my mind, I wanted 50. But there’s going to be plenty of opportunities for that. It’s all right, because we got the win,” Simons said.