Kobe Bryant has mentored a lot of players in the NBA that turned out to be future champions, future MVPs, and future Finals MVPs. Kobe is someone who's not only a legend of the game but a big brother to his teammates and even opposing players. D’Angelo Russell was one of those guys, and one of the best pieces of advice Kobe gave him was one about life after basketball.
Bryant as the great mentor
Kobe took the young D’Angelo under his wing in 2015 when the latter was drafted 2nd overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. It was one of the rare chances that the Lakers were given a high pick while Kobe was still with them. Being 19 years old at that time, Russell was eager to learn the ropes and who could have been a better mentor than the Black Mamba.
As one would expect, Kobe’s advice would revolve around preparation for games. He was known as a workaholic obsessed with finding little details to gain an advantage during games. But for Russell, he was eager to pick Kobe’s mind other than basketball stuff, and one time, Russell shared what the former MVP told him.
“Guys go out and party in every city. I’m meeting with the CEO of Apple. Think about what you want to do when you’re done playing and work on it now, so when the basketball’s done for you, you’ve already built a brand.”
Kobe Bryant, Silver Screen and Roll
It was an eye-opener for the young gun. At 19 years old, receiving gold nuggets of wisdom from Kobe was priceless. Bryant knew how unpredictable a basketball career is and that it can end abruptly due to injuries beyond a player’s control. Paying attention to life after basketball is something players often take for granted.
For young rookies, access to large amounts of money, parties, and celebrity circles meant they have arrived. Thinking they deserve a good life without putting in the necessary work to improve or add skills every year is something Kobe would frown upon.
Kobe walked the talk
When The Black Mamba retired in 2016, he already had several businesses and ventures to explore outside basketball. One of these ventures led him to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2018. This makes Kobe the only basketball player to win an Oscar. What he shared with D’Angelo, Kobe lived himself. Setting an example is a good way to teach others, making Kobe even more missed by today’s fans and players.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Jayson Tatum, and Trae Young are some of the players who are reaping the benefits of having Kobe as a mentor and friend. They all dominate in today’s game because they put in hard work, and they listened to one of the all-time greats. I'm sure they will pass that knowledge on to the next generation - just as Kobe did to them.