There are very few players in the history of the NBA that can match the pure competitiveness and desire to win at all costs that Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant possessed. But one in today’s game which undoubtedly embodies that mindset is Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul, and that has been on display throughout his run to the NBA Finals this year.
Paul, now 36 years old and in his 16th season in the league, has been outstanding in the postseason despite his advanced age and is dominating so far in his first NBA Finals performance. The fact that he has played at such a high level has been a joy to watch, and Paul brought up Bryant when describing the work ethic he has needed to continue to thrive.
Following Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Paul was asked about how he has been able to get his body to hold up, and he mentioned the words of Bryant in his answer, H/T R.P. Salao of ClutchPoints for transcription:
“I know the work that I put it, day in and day out. I don’t think about being 36 when I step out on the court. It’s a lot of commitment, a lot of days to make sure you get your body ready for the game. But when you’re competitive, it’s nothing.
“Kobe said it some years ago, ‘you just got to fall in love with it’, the repetition of it,” Paul said of what he learned from the Lakers legend. “Some people might be like, ‘oh it’s like Groundhog Day’ but not me. Not me. Because I love to play, and I wanna play at a high level.”
This isn’t the first time Paul had mentioned Kobe, as earlier in the playoffs, while dealing with a shoulder issue, Paul noted that Kobe’s words again inspired him:
“I listened to it before the game and hearing Kobe just talking about the work ethic that you put in and stuff like that, and in the thing, Kobe says like, ‘Injuries, sometimes you just can’t control them.’ So, that was all that was going through my mind after the play I got hit. Once I got here to the back and they checked me out and knew if there was any way I could play, I was going to.”
Like Bryant, Paul hasn’t always been the most beloved teammate for the exact reason he has thrived now, an overwhelming desire to win over anything else.
When things have gotten dicey for the Suns, it has been Paul to take things over just as Bryant did a number of times for the Lakers. Now just a couple of wins away, Paul has the chance to accomplish the ultimate goal like Kobe was able to do as well.
LeBron James rooting for Chris Paul, Suns in NBA Finals
One player rooting for Paul to accomplish that ultimate goal is Lakers superstar LeBron James. It is well known that James and Paul are extremely close friends, so LeBron rooting for him to win his first NBA Championship is no surprise at all.
Unfortunately for James and the Lakers, Paul and the Suns eliminated them in the first round of the playoffs to start on this journey. But now, with that in the rearview mirror, LeBron will pull for his friend to finally hoist that Larry O’Brien trophy.