A story about Kobe Bryant playing -- and quickly mastering -- ping pong illustrates his insane competitiveness

Since announcing his retirement at the end of the season, the NBA world has made a point to honour Kobe Bryant and remember his great career.

Complex spoke to 18 media members who have covered Kobe Bryant during his career and asked them their favourite memories of Kobe.

They are all excellent, but one in particular, from Mike Trudell, a beat reporter for Time Warner Cable Sportsnet and former Lakers beat reporter, stands out as an illustration of Kobe’s ridiculous competitiveness.

Trudell explained that in 2013, Bryant arranged a catered Thanksgiving dinner for the team and its reporters while on the road in Detroit. Trudell was playing on ping pong table in the venue and explained that he played growing up, so he was having little trouble beating reporters and players alike. Kobe challenged him next.

“So, we play the first game and you can tell he can play, but he’s not a super experienced ping pong player, so I sense a couple weaknesses and beat him rather handedly the first game,” Trudell told Complex. “He is talking a bit of s—, mostly just calling me a MF-er. But, the reason I’m telling this story is not as a humble brag but because during the entire game, he was literally watching every point and learning as the game is going on.”

Trudell said Kobe challenged him to a second game immediately after.

“I beat him again the second time, but he got much closer. Within five minutes, he was taking the ping pong game so seriously, and I thought, this is why he’s so great at basketball.”

He added, “I’ve never competed against anybody in anything, and I played a D1 sport, that felt as intense as that Ping-Pong game.”

Bryant is renowned for his intensity and ridiculous work ethic, so it’s little surprise that a friendly game of ping pong turned into a heated match. Three years later, it wouldn’t surprise anybody if Kobe is now a great ping pong player.

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