NBA superstars are not just known for their individual feats but also how they make those around them better. After all, basketball is a team game. Despite his reputation of being a difficult teammate, someone who burns them out, here's a story that shows Kobe Bryant understood lifting teammates up is a part of being a great leader.
Though LeBron James is regarded as one of the best players in history with a singular focus on winning it all, there was a time when he needed a little nudge to fully maximize his potential. In his book "The Mamba Mentality: How I Play," Kobe Bryant shared a little story about how he unveiled James' killer mentality during the Olympics.
"The main thing LeBron and I discussed was what constitutes a killer mentality. He watched how I approached every single practice, and I constantly challenged him and the rest of the guys.
I remember there was one half when we were messing around. I came into the locker room at half-time and asked the guys—in a less PG manner—what in the hell we were doing. In the second half, LeBron responded in a big way—he came out with a truly dominant mindset. And I’ve seen him lead that way ever since," Bryant wrote.
James once said he thought he was famous until he went to Kobe Bryant with China. The Black Mamba was treated like a God everywhere. In the little episode described above, perhaps James also learned that someone else was obsessed with winning more than him.
Bryant was well-aware of Team USA's lackluster performance in the 2004 Olympics. A young LeBron James was a member of that roster which brought home the embarrassing bronze medal from Athens. Kobe made it his mission to bring home the gold in 2008. This entailed him getting in the ear of his teammates, especially those who he believed would carry the torch in the years to come.
Come to think of it, that little encounter with Bryant might have changed not just Team USA's mindset but also James' career. After all, fans and analysts had become antsy that James — heralded as the Chosen One — didn't seem to have to ability to win championships. In the cutthroat field of sports, athletes are defined by the number of titles they win. "LeBron is not clutch" was more than a hot take by Skip Bayless.
After spending time with Kobe in the Olympics, LeBron finally figured out how to win an NBA title. He was also more conscious that with his abundance of talent, one title won't cut it. So for James to be considered great, he needed to win as many as he could — just like Kobe.