How much money would you bet that you could make a free throw? One shot. Fifteen feet. It’s not too arduous a task for any casual hooper, but the pressure of a large bet might make it a bit more nerve-racking. If you asked NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant this question, he would already have his answer ready. $500,000. That’s no random number, either. During a matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets in 2012, Bryant tried to bet Gerald Wallace a half a million bucks that he would make a clutch free throw with five seconds left. You can probably guess what happened next.
Kobe Bryant had unmatched confidence and swagger
Kobe Bryant wasn’t just a historically gifted athlete. He was also a master when it came to getting into his opponents’ heads and dominating them mentally. The confidence and swagger he displayed one nightly basis in the NBA was unmatched.
Bryant is one of the few NBA players whose competitiveness can be compared to Michael Jordan‘s. Everything he did on a basketball court was done with one goal in mind — win.
Like Jordan, Bryant didn’t accept losing. It wasn’t in his DNA. When the game was on the line and his team needed a hero, he was there to take the last shot. Bryant made eight game-winning buzzer-beaters throughout his career, the second-most of all time behind only Michael Jordan.
Against the Nets in 2012, Bryant found a more unique way to seal a game.
Kobe Bryant bet Gerald Wallace $500,000 on a game-winning free throw
During the 2012 NBA regular season, the Lakers battled the Nets in a hard-fought, defensive game. LA held a thin two-point lead in the closing seconds when Bryant stepped to the free throw line to stretch the margin to three.
As he prepared for the shot, Gerald Wallace started jawing with the Lakers legend. Wallace dared Bryant to shoot the free throw with his eyes closed, but the response he received wasn’t what he expected.
“I bet I make this b***h. How much you want to put on it? I’ll put 500 grand, right here,” Bryant said.
Taken aback by Bryant’s confidence, Wallace refused and told him to just go ahead and shoot. Bryant shook his head, smiled, and promptly drained the free throw to push the Lakers’ lead to three points.
Wallace learned not to test Kobe Bryant that day
If Wallace didn’t know about Bryant’s confidence and will to win before that encounter, he did now. Bryant was so sure of his closing ability he wanted to bet Wallace $500,000 that he would make the game-clinching free throw.
With shades of Michael Jordan’s free throw with his eyes closed, Bryant drained the shot. It’s hard to believe the end result would’ve been any different had Wallace accepted the bet.
This story is just one of many that proves Bryant is one of the coldest competitors in the history of the NBA. Most players shrink under the pressure, but Bryant embraces it.