Veteran Referee Zach Zarba Reveals Amazing Story On Reffing Kobe Bryant In The Early 2000s

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Veteran Referee Zach Zarba Reveals Amazing Story On Reffing Kobe Bryant In The Early 2000s


There weren’t many like the late, great Kobe Bryant. Kobe was one of the few players who, when entering the court until the game’s final whistle, didn’t have nor want any friends on the court.

With his infamous Mamba Mentality, Bryant always left his heart on the floor, giving it his all – no matter if it was a regular season game or the NBA Finals. But Kobe didn’t expect anything less from his teammates as well as the officials.

This is one of the reasons the 5-time champion was feared by everyone; players, opposing fans and even referees.

One of these referees, veteran ref Zach Zarba, now shared the story about how Bryant’s response to him admitting a missed foul call during a game, was different to all the other players’ reactions. More so, it even was his ‘welcome to the NBA’ moment.

Per Sopan Deb of the New York Times:


It must have been my first year in the league. My “welcome to the N.B.A.” moment. I’m reffing a Lakers game and it’s Kobe Bryant. Kobe in 2003, 2004, was younger and brash. He was chasing a legacy. He was a great player and intense. I remember there was one game and Kobe asked about a play. He thought he got fouled on the elbow shooting a jumper. He barked about it.

The culture of the N.B.A. is that, for us, if a play in question happens in the first half, you can kind of go in at halftime, look at the play, you can come back and either tell them, “Yeah, you were right,” or “No, you were wrong.” Sure enough, Kobe got fouled and I missed the play, and it should’ve been a foul.

When you tell a player and you drop your guard and say, “Hey, I missed that play,” 90 percent of the time the player is going to say: “Hey, don’t worry about it. You’ll get the next one.” That’s the kind of working environment. I come back out and walk up to Kobe and say: “Kobe, you were right. You did get hit on the elbow.” He looked dead at me and I’m expecting a pat on the butt or whatever. He looked at me stone-faced and said, “Get it together.”


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