You have Kobe & Shaq, one of the most dominant duos in NBA history. Then there’s Kobe & Gasol when Kobe proved he could win without Shaq. Apart from those two championship eras, we spend most time hearing stories about the Nick Young & Lou Williams era of Kobe’s career. That era probably gave us the most insight into what Kobe was all about.
Above all else, Kobe was passionate about leadership. Bill Simmons told a story of Kobe sending him a text after he wrote an article about Bill Russell. Something in the lines of “I liked the article, call me. Kobe.” Logically, Simmons assumed someone was pranking him and responded to the number in that light. He knew it was Kobe when he got a response, “Of course it’s me you Boston motherfu****.” Simmons called him and had a 20 min conversation with Kobe about leadership.
That’s what Kobe did all the time. Study leaders from all veins of life. Sports, art, politics, war. One of the lessons you learn is that anyone can lead when your team is a good fit for you. True leaders get the maximum even when they aren’t. Can you imagine a more significant leadership challenge for Kobe Bryant than Nick “Swaggy P” Young?
Young started his career by being “mentored” in professionalism and hard work by Gilbert Arenas. Not quite the Mamba school of thought and dedication. That combo gave us some of the greatest Kobe behind the scenes moments, most famously the “soft like charmin'” practice. Yesterday Nick Young and Lou Williams shared another Kobe moment. Young tweeted how he had just talked to Kobe and told him he would share the story about the team wearing Kobe’s. Lou Williams elaborated.
This made me laugh, a vintage Kobe moment, then it reminded me of something Ryen Rusillo talked about on his podcast yesterday. The main message Phil Jackson was trying to get to Kobe was that he has to accept that his maximum is not available for most people and that when a teammate is giving his 100%, that may be Kobe’s 70%, and that’s OK. He can’t set expectations for other people with “Kobe’s 100” as a benchmark. One of the ways Kobe processed that message was this.
As Kobe said after his last game, it wasn’t about winning or losing; it was about the process and doing things the right way. He continued that legacy off the court, and that’s why he didn’t just leave us great memories on the court, but a lot of inspiration, the Mamba academy, an Academy award-winning animated short about basketball, books for kids and so much more.