If you are a basketball fan who didn't grow up on a staple of Kobe Bryant going to work on a nightly basis against the rest of the league, I'm pretty sure you might find the title of this article to be hyperbole - lip service to a player who just turned 40 years old today.
If you were, however, one of those people who noticed not just how Kobe evaded double teams before splashing a turnaround fadeaway from the low post at the fag end of games, but also the look he had on his face while doing so, you might just tend to agree with me.
As psychopathic a competitor as the NBA has ever seen, the Black Mamba is an embodiment of how a person can "squeeze every ounce of juice out of the orange that they could".
That's partly because of his insane work ethic, and partly because of his mental toughness and the work he put in to become the best player on the planet. Here are 8 reasons why the 'greatest Laker of all time', to quote Magic Johnson, is the toughest player in NBA history:
#8 The Matt Barnes incident
There are quite a few incidents that I can think of when Kobe displayed superhuman toughness - but none of them are quite like this particular occasion when the Lakers squared up to their Finals opponents from 2009 in the Orlando Magic during a regular season game in March 2010.
In the third quarter, Orlando's Matt Barnes attempted to make Kobe flinch on an inbounds pass. He faked throwing the ball right in his face, and Bryant didn't move — like, at all. Not just that, Kobe doesn't even hint as if the move had any sort of effect on his psyche.
Here's what Barnes had to say in 2010 to Sports Illustrated:
“That scared me a little. I mean, that wasn’t even human. And then I saw the replay, and I was like, this close to him, and he didn’t flinch. I didn’t know what I expected, maybe something to happen, but he didn’t flinch.”
And here's Bryant, via the L.A. Daily News in 2015:
"He’s crazy, but he’s not that crazy. So I didn’t bother flinching. It was a split second and I processed it pretty quickly. I realized he wasn’t going to do it. We laughed and joked about it a lot when he played together.”
Here's what I have to say:
Kobe Bryant's nerves are made of steel.