Kobe chronicles: Kevin Martin remembers his first encounter with Bryant

Kobe Bryant spins on then-Houston defender Kevin Martin on Jan. 3, 2012.

Kobe Bryant spins on then-Houston defender Kevin Martin on Jan. 3, 2012.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

As Kobe Bryant plays out his 20th and final season with the Lakers, the Los Angeles Times has reached out to players, coaches and broadcasters for recollections about his career.

It happened more than 11 years ago, but Minnesota Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin recently recalled his first game against Kobe Bryant as though it was yesterday.

It was a 2004 preseason contest in Fresno. Martin’s Sacramento Kings teammate, Doug Christie, was sidelined because of an injury, and Martin, then a 21-year-old rookie, started in place of the veteran guard.


Martin would be matched against Bryant, already a three-time NBA champion and five-time NBA All-Star.

“Kobe was in his prime, winning championships and MVP and I think it was my fourth game,” Martin said, grinning. “I got kind of a charge that they should have never called. He looked down at me and said, ‘You’ll never get that one when the regular season comes.’ ”

Martin knew better than to ever try it again.

“That kind of changed the way I approach the game, taking charges on players like him,” he chuckled.

Bryant, who will retire at the end of his 20th season in April, scored 38 points in a recent 119-115 victory over the Timberwolves.

Martin said after the game that it would “be kind of weird” to think of the NBA without Bryant.

“It will be like we are losing an ambassador of the game,” he said. “So you always want to think of guys like him and play in their honor after they are done and just realize you can’t take anything for granted when it comes to this game.”