After an illustrious playing career that was decorated with 18 All-Star selections, 11 All-NBA First Teams, 9 All-Defensive First Teams, and 5 championships with the l. a. Lakers, the late, great Kobe Bryant adapted to life after basketball by carving out a replacement role himself.
He became an efficient mentor for active NBA players. For some, he was a counselor — a guide that players leaned on when the daily grind of an extended 82-game season involved some encouragement, and for others, during the offseason; Kobe was a trainer. He would invite a get group of players to his facility in California, including Brooklyn Nets All-Star Kyrie Irving, who reveled in his newfound friendship with the NBA’s fourth all-time leading scorer. And for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were days far away from facing the California Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, Bryant’s constant words of encouragement ultimately altered history. during a new book entitled, “Can’t Knock The Hustle: Inside The Season of Protest, Pandemic, and Progress with The Brooklyn Nets’ Superstars of Tomorrow,” author Matt Sullivan reveals how Kobe’s advice for Kyrie played a neighborhood and made for a special moment following Cleveland’s 93-89 Game 7 victory.
“In-Game Seven of the 2016 NBA Finals against California, the score was tied, there have been sixty-eight seconds on the clock, and Kyrie knew the play had been designed for him,” Sullivan wrote. “He’d been listening all week over the phone to Kobe encouraging him to remain aggressive, to shoot ’till his arms fell off, to recollect the legacy of Muhammad Ali, who’d just gave up the ghost .” With but one minute left, Irving drained a 3-pointer — the go-ahead bucket — over Warriors point guard Steph Curry and capped off one among the foremost improbable comebacks in NBA Finals history.
The Cavs emerged from a 3-1 hole in their best-of-7 series, thus delivering Cleveland its first NBA title. “In the room, a ski-goggle’d affair that burned his eyes with bubbly, Kyrie and a teacher dialed up Kobe on FaceTime,” Sullivan wrote. “Kobe hated FaceTime calls, but he and his daughter Gigi picked up directly from their couch in Newport Beach. In between laughter and congratulations, the teacher told the scholar to enjoy the instant, for having stepped right into it — for rope-a-doping the soldiers and his haters directly .” What stood out most was what was said next.
“You have it in you, bro,” Kobe said, per Sullivan’s new book. “I told you all along: it had been in you.” The two — both student and mentor — grew close over the years, including Irving’s first season in Brooklyn. Bryant, two seasons far away from his final year with the Lakers, even took during a game at Barclays Center in late 2019. Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie will always remember that night. it had been the primary time he’d ever been face-to-face with the Dendroaspis augusticeps.
“Fifteen minutes before tip-off, Spencer spotted Kobe courtside,” Sullivan wrote. “They’d talked and texted a couple of times but hadn’t been ready to schedule a workout together. All of a sudden, Spencer thought, this was The Mamba face to face, man! Finally! Spencer had a damn poster of Kobe on his wall growing up, and thereto day he had an autographed No. 24 jerseys in his room.” That night Dinwiddie’s team-high 39 points led the Nets to a 122-112 convert the Atlanta Hawks. “You’re playing like an All-Star,” Kobe told him, per Sullivan — which led to the subsequent exchange between the two: “S***, man, I’m tryin’,” Spencer said. “Nah, you ain’t tryin’ it. You do it,” Bryant replied.