Smush Parker: Kobe was a bad teammate, and I stopped passing to him
Smush Parker responded at length to Kobe Bryant on Thursday, defending his credentials as a basketball player while saying that Kobe was a bad teammate who never made him feel welcome on the Lakers.
Bryant ripped Parker and some other former Lakers teammates in some unprompted comments on Wednesday.
Parker joined Hard 2 Guard Radio Thursday to address Kobe’s comments.
The former Laker shared plenty of stories, and says he went wrong because he didn’t bow down to Kobe. He says he even stopped passing Bryant the ball during his second season on the team.
Parker played in China the last two seasons and says he’s preparing for another season there in December. What was his response to Kobe bringing up his name on Wednesday?
“I’m lost for words. It makes me blush. For my name to still come out of that man’s mouth? It makes me blush,” he told Hard 2 Guard.
Parker says he values his two seasons playing with the Lakers (from 2005-2007), but not his time playing with Bryant.
“The two years in LA were a blessing to me,” he said. “People who ask me how it was playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. People ask me how it was playing with Kobe Bryant. I said in 2008 that it was an overrated experience.”
Though Parker termed playing with Kobe “overrated,” he respects the five-time champion’s game. He just doesn’t like his personality.
“You can’t knock the man’s legacy, you can’t knock what he’s done in basketball. His work ethic is tremendous. There’s not an ounce of hate in my blood whatsoever. The guy can play basketball — you’ve seen that throughout his career.
“What I don’t like about him is the man that he is. His personality. How he treats people. I don’t like that side of Kobe Bryant.
“Basketball is a team sport. It is team-oriented. It is not an individual sport. It’s not tennis or golf, it is a team sport. When you are the star of the team, you have to make your teammates feel comfortable. You have to make them feel welcome. And he did not do that at all.”
Though Kobe said Parker didn’t deserve to be in the NBA, Parker says he earned a spot on the Lakers. That didn’t matter to Kobe, who he says completely disrespected him.
“I had a workout with the Lakers, beat all the guards out for the starting position, earned a spot on the team. Midway through the first season, I tried to at least have a conversation with Kobe Bryant — he is my teammate, he is a co-worker of mine, I see his face every day I go in to work — and I tried to talk with him about football. He tells me I can’t talk to him. He tells me I need more accolades under my belt before I come talk to him. He was dead serious.”
Smush says the talking they did was strictly on the court.
“We’re teammates, we talk basketball on the court. [Our talks were] about getting him the ball pretty much.”
Parker described Kobe as someone who kept to himself. He says while he was on the Lakers, he never saw Kobe make an attempt to develop any kind of friendship with any one of his teammates.
“On road trips, he traveled with his security guards. Those were the guys he talked to. On the team plane, he sat in the back of the plane by himself.”
Parker even told a story about a time when the team was in Phoenix preparing for a playoff series against the Suns. Smush says that coach Phil Jackson gave Lamar Odom his black card to take the team out to a nice dinner as a bonding experience. Parker says the entire team sat at one table, and that Kobe Bryant had his own table in a corner.
Recalling the memories prompted Parker to mention the nickname he has for the team: the Los Angeles Bryants.
“Whenever Kobe is happy, the Lakers are happy. Whenever Kobe smiles, the team smiles. They should be the Los Angeles Bryants.”
Parker says he wasn’t a good fit on the team because he didn’t idolize Kobe the way he was supposed to. He even says he stopped passing Bryant the ball on purpose.
“The reason I wasn’t a Laker after my second year is because I didn’t bow down to [Kobe]. I didn’t kiss his a–. I wasn’t kissing his feet. Quite frankly, towards the end of the second season, I stopped passing him the ball. I stopped giving him the ball. I started looking him off.”
Parker was asked about how that worked within the context of the triangle offense, and he says it wasn’t a bad thing.
“The triangle is a team-oriented offense. If the triangle is run to perfection, everybody on the court can score an easy 15 points a game.
“Kobe Bryant says I’m the worst point guard, that I should have never made it into the NBA — he just frowns at the thought of me playing in the back court with him. Like Jay-Z says, people lie, numbers don’t. Just go to the stats.
“If I don’t deserve to play in the NBA, why am I third on all the stat sheets on the Lakers team those years? I’m top three in all the categories.”
A check of the stats shows that Parker was third on the team in points and assists, and second on the team in steals and three pointers made in the ’05-’06 season. He was fourth in points and assists in ’06-’07, second in three-pointers, and led the team in steals.
Parker also wanted to defend his character in light of his reputation as a bad guy.
He calls himself a “misunderstood player” who loves basketball. He says he displays the same kind of passion that star players show, but that there is a double-standard. Parker says stars are complimented for playing with passion, but if a lesser player shows that type of emotion, he is labeled as a player with a bad attitude.
He also said the 2007 incident with the parking attendant was b.s and an extortion attempt.
Parker says he paid the valet the night before to keep his car up front so that it would be there in the morning for him to get to practice on time without having to wait. He says when he went for his car in the morning, they didn’t have a recollection of his deal from the night before and that he had to pay. He says he went to grab the keys out of the attendant’s hand, and that that was the only contact that was made between them.
“The next day she’s on the city hall steps with her arm in a sling and a neck brace saying I dragged her through the parking lot,” he says of the allegations.
Parker says both their statements in the police report corroborate his story, and that she only changed her tune after learning he was a player.
Smush says he loved playing for Phil Jackson, calling him a “great motivator,” and saying “I couldn’t have played for a better coach.”
He was reluctant to answer many questions during his interview with Hard 2 Guard because he stressed he didn’t want to be involved in negative conversations. He actually sounded quite mature throughout the interview, and talked about his excitement about being a father.
Parker says playing in China has been a great experience, and that it allows him to do two things he loves: travel and play basketball.
Even if Lakers fans don’t have fond memories of Smush Parker, it’s hard not to at least respect him after hearing his interview. You can listen to the full thing here.
UPDATE: This was Kobe’s response on Friday.