The Real Reason Kobe Bryant Didn't Speak To Teammate Jeremy Lin For Four Months

The 2014-15 NBA season was not a particularly memorable one for the Los Angeles Lakers. While the team still had the services of one Kobe Bean Bryant at shooting guard, the Lakers' longtime franchise superstar was in his age-36 season and heading into the homestretch of his legendary career. Still, he was by far the best player on a rebuilding Lakers team that would go on to win only 21 games. This unit featured a ragtag crew of rising rookies and sophomores and a number of serviceable, yet mostly unspectacular veterans, including Jeremy Lin.

Lin's rise from undrafted third-stringer to everyday starter at point guard (and certified offensive threat) is still one of the greatest NBA underdog stories in league history. Over a span of about a week in February 2012, the former Harvard star energized the struggling New York Knicks with some eye-popping scoring performances, following up apparent flukes with even more impressive feats as "Linsanity" became a thing among NBA fans (via Bleacher Report). And one of those impressive feats was a 38-point explosion against Bryant's Lakers. 

Of course, Linsanity didn't last forever, and as Lin joined the Lakers ahead of the 2014-15 season, he'd long since proven to be merely average as an NBA floor leader — not bad by any stretch but definitely not the next John Stockton, Gary Payton, or Chris Paul either. And with the aforementioned 38-point game now a distant memory, he would also end up having a notable feud with Bryant during that turbulent campaign, one where the Black Mamba and Linsanity purportedly didn't speak to each other for a huge chunk of the season.

Lin waved Bryant off during a crucial play early in the 2014-15 season

The Los Angeles Lakers stumbled right out of the gate in the 2014-15 NBA season, losing their first five games, all of which were against Western Conference rivals. None, however, were fiercer than the Los Angeles Clippers, who, behind Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, overtook the Lakers as the NBA's top Los Angeles team and then some. Both L.A. teams faced off for the first time that season on October 31, 2014, and with about five minutes left, the game was tied at 103-all.

As seen in this YouTube clip, the Lakers are in possession at this point, with Lin calling an isolation play. As the shot clock winds down, Bryant calls for the pass, but Lin waves him off, directing the five-time NBA champion to set a pick on Clippers guard J.J. Redick. Lin then moves to the right and fires a last-second three-pointer over Paul, giving the Lakers a 106-103 lead. Given how Paul is a much tougher defender than Redick, that Kobe screen nearly turned out to be counterproductive, but the shot did go in.

Recalling the incident in a 2021 episode of the "All the Smoke" podcast with fellow ex-NBA stars Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, Lin said that he waved Bryant off because even at that early point in the campaign, he'd "had enough" of the Mamba. But that wasn't what directly led to months of silence between the two Lakers teammates.

Lin stood up to Bryant and got ignored for four months

Although the Lakers eventually lost this battle of Los Angeles, 118-111, Kobe Bryant openly praised Jeremy Lin for pulling off such a gutsy move and waving him off. "You have to be able to assert yourself, especially on a team that I'm playing on — especially on a team I'm playing on," the Lakers icon told ESPN Los Angeles' Baxter Holmes. "Because I don't want chumps, I don't want pushovers, and if you're a chump and a pushover, I will run over you."

Unfortunately, Bryant and Lin's relationship became more frayed as the 2014-15 season progressed, with Lin revealing in his "All the Smoke" appearance that he had issues from the get-go with how Bryant was trying to force things too much on offense as an older, now injury-prone player. "At that time, he was coming back from injuries and he was also going through some injuries, but he was like 35-year-old Kobe with a 25-year-old Kobe mind," he said, adding that Bryant was so determined to prove that he wasn't all washed up.

Then there was a series of arguments via text message where Bryant and Lin didn't see eye-to-eye over the Lakers' direction as a team. It wasn't helping that Bryant, who was exactly one decade older than Lin, was allegedly talking down to his younger teammate; Lin took issue with this and demanded to be treated with respect by someone he should have been learning from. He added that in the aftermath of that particular tiff, the Black Mamba ignored him for the last four months of the season, though their purported rift went unnoticed by their teammates.

The beef quietly ended after Lin left Los Angeles the next season

Jeremy Lin said on the "All the Smoke" podcast that Kobe Bryant's cold-shoulder treatment was something he didn't mind at the end of the day, because he was able to speak his mind about what was bothering him, and it didn't matter whether or not Bryant appreciated where he was coming from. This was a contrast to how he was during his earlier years in the NBA when he didn't speak up when he should have.

Ultimately, though, the beef was squashed, and it thankfully didn't turn into another Shaq vs. Kobe mega-feud. With Bryant playing his last season in 2015-16 and Lin moving on to the Charlotte Hornets that year, the two former teammates agreed to put their differences aside in the middle of a Lakers vs. Hornets game. Bryant even went on to give Lin some advice on how to further improve his game, and the two men were soon texting each other regularly without tensions flaring up.

Summing things up, Lin said that Bryant's cold-shoulder treatment might have been a blessing in disguise. "I feel like him not talking to me was a sign of respect," he explained. "Like he was, 'I'm p***ed at you but I respect you because [you] actually said something to me. Whereas so many other people won't.' So that's why next season when I was in Charlotte ... we talked like it never happened."