The 2016-17 season officially marked the beginning of the rebuilding phase for the Los Angeles Lakers, after Kobe Bryant’s symbolic final game marked his journey into retirement. With Bryant officially retired, recently hired head coach Luke Walton and the young core have embarked on this season.
As the season progresses, the young core have gained experience and have also learned from their mistakes. Although the season hasn’t turned out as positive as the first 20 games would have indicated, the Lakers have continued to build that chemistry and experience that is necessary to succeed.
Bryant’s final season with the Lakers wasn’t as fluid as expected, as Bryant’s farewell tour seemed to take precedence over the development of the young core at times. Former head coach Byron Scott’s coaching style also wasn’t necessarily playing in the best interest of the young core, which certainly stagnated their growth.
However, Bryant tried to impart as many teaching lessons as he could, with a young group of players that were anxious to learn from him while they could. Forward Julius Randle recently sat down for The Vertical Podcast, with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, where he discussed how Bryant’s constant communication to this day has meant more than anything:
“I still talk to Kob [Kobe Bryant] to this day. Anything I have questions for. I remember we were about to play a team and he knew a guy really well on the team and played with him. And I was like, ‘what are some of this guy’s weaknesses? Or what does he not like?’ and he told me. He’ll text me and talk to me too, whether it is congratulating me on my baby or going out to Orange County to work out with him. He’s open, he’s still there and he’s available. I think, for me, that was bigger than anything.”
Now that Bryant is officially in retirement, the pressures and constant attention to the grind of the NBA have been lifted off his shoulders. While he and his wife recently welcomed their third girl, Bryant certainly has a lot of tasks he can entertain himself with in his post-playing career.
Bryant has attempted to stay away from the game, even though he still leads China in NBA jersey sales. Walton recently admitted that he was open to Bryant helping out the team, as the former teammates did have conversations at the beginning of Walton’s tenure.
President Jeanie Buss recently had a meeting with Bryant, upon the NBA legend stating he was open to having conversations with the organization.
While many basketball aficionados tend to point out the lack of an impact Bryant had during his final seasons, the Lakers players always admit that they picked up off of his desire and commitment to greatness.
Center Tarik Black also alluded to the impact Bryant had off the court, imparting wisdom on how to be financially stable while dealing with the circus that is the NBA.