Former Los Angeles Lakers forward Tony Gaffney "never got to play offense" while being Kobe Bryant's one-on-one workout partner. Gaffney, who went undrafted in 2009, played for the Lakers during summer league and joined the defending champions for training camp.
Gaffney, who went undrafted in 2009, played for the Lakers during summer league and joined the defending champions for training camp. While he was ultimately cut before the season started, Gaffney said he played countless games against Bryant.
“We’re gonna start playing one-on-one,” Bryant told Gaffney, according to the forward. “I heard you’re a defensive lockdown player. So, lock me down.”
“Obviously easier said than done,” Gaffney said with a laugh. “But for about three weeks in a row, I was forced to show up hours before practice to play one-on-one against Kobe.”
Bryant would invent various sets of rules where he could only dribble and score with his weak hand; some days he could only score inside the paint, others only from outside.
“Oh, and I never got to play offense,” Gaffney said.
Gaffney also said Bryant regularly arrived to practice nearly five hours early to hone his game. After being released by the Lakers, Gaffney signed with the Boston Celtics and met Bryant's Lakers in the 2010 Finals.
“Walking through the tunnel before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, which of course happened to be at Staples Center against the Lakers, I hear from behind some choice words; I turn around and it was Kobe,” Gaffney said. “To put it nicely, he called me a traitor. The next thing I know he comes over, gives me a big hug and said Boston is where I belong.”
Gaffney recently signed a contract in Israel and has also played in Turkey, Germany and Spain.
Bryant is entering his 19th season with the Lakers after playing in just six games last season. He is 592 points behind Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
The Lakers open the regular season Oct. 28 against the Houston Rockets.
- Paul Palladino