Former Houston Rocket Mo Taylor: Kobe Bryant Had That 'It Factor'

Taylor remembers when Bryant made that transition from sixth man to superstar

Brandon Scott
January 27, 2020 - 12:21 pm

Maurice Taylor was in Los Angeles when Kobe Bryant rose to prominence. 

Taylor appropriately referred to Bryant as "a global icon" when he spoke Monday morning on Payne & Pendergast.

He was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers the year after Bryant's rookie season with the Lakers. 

Taylor remembers when Bryant made that transition from sixth man to superstar, helping lead the Lakers to five championships over his 20-year career. 

In 2000, the Lakers won their first championship and it was clear Bryant had taken a major step in his game, but you could see the star potential well ahead of time.

"They started to turn the corner in '98," Taylor said"I remember him checking in. I remember this guy just having the 'it' factor. You saw it in him. The difference between Kobe in his second year and his third year was tremendous. I mean, it wasn't any playing on the court. He had a still demeanor. He believed that he was the best player in the league. And he believed they weren't stopping at nothing but a championship. That 2000 year was when I saw Kobe change from Kobe to the Mamba. Shaq won the MVP that year, but we all know that it was a combined effort between the both of them that made them so dominant."

Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Sunday morning.

They were headed to a basketball game. Bryant was 41 years old. 

But before he was of age, Taylor remembers both of them trying to sneak into LA clubs, often to no avail. 

It's harder to push a fake ID when you're 6 feet, 6 inches or taller and everyone knows who you are. 

"It wasn't like 'hey, I'm 22 today.' Nah, it didn't happen," Taylor laughed. 

Taylor was at Jason's Deli with his own daughter's soccer team, in between games in The Woodlands when he heard the tragic news. 

A text message came through simply stating "Kobe died."

"My response was Kobe who? Because I know we're not talking about Kobe Bryant," Taylor said. "But it was a surreal feeling to hear that and then after that text message my phone started blowing up. Once I found out it was actually a real story, it was just heartbreaking."

When Taylor was with the Rockets from 2000 to 2005, the Lakers and Rockets played each other 13 times in the regular season. There was also a five-game playoff series in 2004, which the Lakers won 4-1. 

That was in between Bryant's championship winning stages, but also at the height of his rivalry with former Rockets great Tracy McGrady. 

Taylor spoke about how McGrady's presence on the court always challenged Bryant to play his best. 

"Those games were so much fun and so competitive," Taylor said. "The only time I made the playoffs with the Rockets was playing against Kobe and the Lakers."

Listen to the full interview here:

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