Kobe Bryant’s tragic death in a helicopter crash cut short a life that had many stories unwritten, and it’s made tales about Bryant’s legendary competitiveness and drive pop up all over the place as tributes pour in. But one story that charmed many people earlier in the NBA season now has an explanation.
Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic had a funny interaction with Bryant earlier in the year when the former Laker was sitting court-side during a Mavericks game and heckled the young guard. The swearing, however, was in Doncic’s native Slovenian. It certainly got to the young Mav, who mentioned in postgame that Bryant was “talking my language,” which surprised him.
And now in a Marc Stein story in the New York Times, we know exactly how Bryant learned the Slovenian words necessary to rattle the young star. Stein’s story features both Doncic and Bryant’s former Lakers teammate Sasha Vujacic, who detailed how he taught Bryant how to speak some Slovenian. The two played together six seasons with the Lakers and Vujacic said he was the one who helped “expand his vocabulary,” so to speak.
“Kobe and I connected in Italian from the very first day, but we would fight a lot in practice,” Vujacic, drafted by the Lakers in 2004, said by telephone.
“It was a big brother, little brother kind of thing,” Vujacic continued. “I would cuss him out in Slovenian or Serbian when I got mad. He would find that interesting that I didn’t back down. And then we would talk about it.”
Many speculated it would be Vujacic who provided the proper trash talk here, and it’s fascinating that he and Bryant first connected via Italian, which Bryant also spoke fluently. And it makes an already charming story about Bryant that much more interesting: he just had to know what Vujacic was saying about him, so he learned the language that he was getting cursed out in.
[via The New York Times]