Altercations and clashes are common events during a beautiful NBA evening. Certain emotions are triggered in the intensity of the ballgame, resulting in players getting in each other’s faces. Off the court, however, players beefing is uncommon. This was the situation with NBA legends, Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone; A historic feud that forced their friendship to go down the drain.
Karl Malone had a spectacular NBA career; however, he never brought a championship to Utah. In the quest for his first NBA title, he joined forces with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in Los Angeles in 2003. The Lakers were an established dynasty and a formidable team, and Malone was in the twilight of his career. It was the perfect situation for the “Mailman”.
The Lakers made it to the Finals that year, but the Lake Show was spoiled by the Detroit Pistons. While the bulk of the NBA world expected Malone to win his first ring, his dreams came crumbling down. Many blamed the team’s poor chemistry in the locker room and the backstage feud between Bryant and Malone for the same.
So, what exactly transpired between the two legends?
Karl Malone upset Kobe by hurling inappropriate comments toward his wife Vanessa Bryant
According to ESPN, Karl Malone was in the audience watching the Lakers take on the Milwaukee Bucks in November 2004. Vanessa Bryant was also present, cheering on her husband. However, what followed was neither right for Malone’s reputation nor his friendship with Kobe Bryant.
Karl Malone allegedly made some inappropriate remarks toward Vanessa that made her incredibly uncomfortable. Malone reportedly asked Vanessa to come over and hug him. She was clearly confused and uncomfortable. When she asked why, Malone allegedly said, “If you do that it will be on the cover of every magazine in the country.”
Vanessa was clearly upset and went off on him. She reminded him that she was married and that he was old enough to be her father. Malone, without any shame on his face and in his words, said, “ooh, like your daddy?”
Hearing Malone’s comment forced Vanessa to shut down the conversation then and there. It wasn’t the end though.
After the game, Vanessa asked Malone, who was rocking a cowboy hat, “Hey, cowboy, what are you hunting?” The Mailman responded, “I’m hunting for little Mexican girls.”
Venessa, who is of Mexican descent, was infuriated and walked away. She told Kobe Bryant about everything that had happened, which thoroughly upset him.
Karl Malone wanted to “knuckle up” with Bryant years after their “beef”
When Kobe Bryant spoke to the media about the incident, he said Malone did not deny making the comments. In fact, he came up with a simple apology, saying, “Aw, you know, I’m sorry if I said anything that was out of line.”
Years later, Malone stated that if Kobe still has a problem with him, they might just have to square up. “The Mailman” appeared on Huff Post Live, where he talked about the entire incident. He insisted that he had no grudges, but if something arose, he’d be prepared to let his fists do the talking.
“You have the problem, I don’t. I love Westerns. I’m old-school Western,” Malone told host Marc Lamont Hill. “Back in the day when you had a beef, you didn’t go get guns and knives. You just, ‘Hey Marc, I got a problem.’ We just go in the back with no cameras, no nothing, and let’s just knuckle up and get it over with.”
He also indicated that he never informed Kobe about the option to throw punches, but he stated that it is still a possibility. “No, but it’s standing. It’s a standing (offer),” Malone said.
It is uncertain whether Kobe and Karl were successful in putting a stop to their spat. The two may have moved on, but whether they were able to “officially” bury the hatchet is unknown.
Regardless, when Kobe Bryant tragically passed away in January 2020, Malone did extend his sympathies and tweeted his condolences.