Kobe Bryant spent 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, and share the locker room with various teammates with different types of personalities. He had to learn from an early age how to lead his teammates in different ways.
When he entered the NBA and was drafted by the Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal was at that time the team’s leader both on and off the court. That was slowly but surely changing during their 2000-02 championships run when Kobe took a major role in the team’s success.
After Shaquille’s departure in 2004, Kobe became the leader of a Laker team which was no longer competing for a championship and was eliminated twice in the first round of the playoffs by the Phoenix Suns. This was a learning experience for Kobe Bryant who figured out how to approach his teammates and eventually won two championships in three consecutive NBA Finals appearances.
Bryant believes it’s not just passing the ball to his teammates in order to get the best out of them. In an interview with Lewis Howes he said he worked to accomplish that by joining them in various social gatherings. This also meant that they would have to meet the requirements which were set quite high by Kobe Bryant himself.
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“When I played, one of the things I had to learn was how to get the best out of my teammates. Most people think it’s a simple thing: pass them the ball. But that’s not how you make guys better. You have to really affect their behavior. Like, I would tell guys if we had back-to-backs, ‘I don’t care if we’re in Miami. I don’t care if we’re in a great city of Chicago, you can’t go out. Gotta get rest.’ But guys aren’t going to listen, right? So a few times I said, ‘We’ll all go out. We’ll go out together. I’ll drink with you.’ But the next morning, I’m banging on your door at five in the morning. ‘Let’s go!’ ‘Where we going?’ ‘I hung out with you, now you come hang out with me. This is what we do. Let’s go.’ And they’re at the gym, we’re working out, we hit the bus, we go to practice, we play that night. And they’re dead and like, ‘Lesson learned.’ Listen, if you’re going to do that, do that. But don’t let that comprise what we’re here to do. So you’ve got to show them, ‘Kob’ can do that and still has the energy to get up and do this. So either I got to meet that same energy or I gotta keep my butt in my room.’ … I think you have to listen and you have to pay attention to what your colleagues or teammates are saying. What are certain things that drive them? Certain things that motivate them, that trigger them.”
NBA fans could see Kobe’s transformation as a leader throughout his career from being the youngest player in his team to 2016 when he was the oldest player on the roster. Kobe realized in order to win championships, he would have to focus to ensure that his teammates are well-prepared for the long season but also the playoffs.
Natural born leaders have this characteristic and we can definitely say Kobe Bryant found the right way to motivate his teammates into giving the best results in order to be successful.