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Kobe Bryant Never Let Up on a Basketball Court, Even Against Barack Obama on His Birthday

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  • Kobe Bryant
    Kobe Bryant
    American basketball player (1978-2020)
  • David Axelrod
    American political consultant and analyst
  • Barack Obama
    Barack Obama
    44th president of the United States
  • Derek Fisher
    Derek Fisher
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|

In the wake of the tragic death of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, many have shared stories about the NBA great’s ferocious “mamba mentality.”

The 41-year-old superstar is regarded as one of the best basketball players to ever play the game — mentioned in the breath of prolific scorers like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Wilt Chamberlain — but one story shared Monday by former President Barack Obama advisor David Axelrod speaks volumes about the relentless competitiveness Bryant became synonymous with in his life.

“It was August 2010, and President Obama, an avid hooper, celebrated his 49th birthday by inviting some of the greatest NBA players to join him for a pickup game of basketball in Washington before a group of wounded warriors — troops who were injured in action,” Axelrod remembered in a tribute posted on CNN. “Bryant was mending a balky knee before the coming season and did not play. But that didn’t stop him from engaging in some lively, good-natured trash-talking from the sidelines.”

According to Axelrod, Bryant became upset when fellow NBA stars Derek Fisher and Chris Paul seemed to be taking it easy on Obama.

“So, Kobe called two of the NBA stars over for a little, good-natured tongue-lashing,” Axelrod recounts. “‘You and you!’ he said, pointing to Chris Paul and Derek Fisher, two of the league’s most notorious ball hawkers. ‘The two meanest little MFs in the league and you won’t get within seven feet of that guy. Come on, y’all, play some ball!'”

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Axelrod said Fisher and Paul laughed off Bryant’s trash talk, but the message echoed what most people will remember about the future Hall of Famer.

“The message was clear, and oh so Kobe: No mercy — not even for the commander-in-chief. At his game. On his birthday!” Axelrod said.

President Barack Obama (right) poses with Kobe Bryant (left) in 2010 after Bryant and the Lakers won the 2009 NBA Championship. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Barack Obama (right) poses with Kobe Bryant (left) in 2010 after Bryant and the Lakers won the 2009 NBA Championship. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

RELATED: Kobe Bryant Shared Emotional Tribute to Wife Vanessa Weeks Before Tragic Death: ‘My Queen’

Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others passed away in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday.

The sports world and beyond have exploded with an outpour of tributes since news broke Sunday morning, from memorials around Los Angeles where Bryant played his entire 20-year career with the Lakers to in-game tributes from current NBA players who are taking 24-second shot clock penalties to honor Bryant, who wore No. 24.

But the most fitting memory, Axelrod concludes, is that Bryant passed away while en route to coach his daughter and other young kids learning to play the game he loved.