Bryant and Irving worked together this summer when Bryant was on the US Olympic team and Irving played on a team working out with them as they prepared for the London Olympics. Irving, feeling good about his game, challenged Bryant to a game of one-on-one, for $50,000. Asked about it before the Los Angeles Lakers' game Tuesday night against the Cavs, Bryant chuckled at the challenge in retrospect:
"He said he needed to get his money up a little bit and he was going to play me," Bryant said. "But he doesn't want that problem."
Most would probably agree that Bryant is right that the reigning rookie of the year isn't at his level yet - the only statistic in which the second-year player out of Duke is beating the 14-time All-Star and four-time MVP thus far this year is assists, and despite the Lakers struggles, they have a better record than Cleveland by several games. But Bryant had nice things to say about Irving as well:
"But he works extremely hard and I was really impressed with him this summer going up against our Olympic team in practice. He really came to play."
Tuesday night's game will be Irving's first in several weeks after fracturing a finger, while the Lakers have lost two in a row.