When the Los Angeles Lakers retire Kobe Bryant’s two jersey numbers Monday, Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant will be among those in attendance.
It’s a somewhat fitting coincidence given that Durant was the one to seamlessly slide into the role of the NBA’s preeminent scorer that Bryant relinquished towards the end of his career. Durant has spoken in the past of revering Bryant’s scoring escapades, and the Lakers legend was also a mentor to the young forward at times while he was developing in Oklahoma City.
At a Warriors’ recent practice, Durant told reporters about one specific dinner he had with Bryant back in 2015.
There hadn’t been a whole lot of details about it until now, via Melissa Rohlin of the Bay Area News group as transcribed by Alysha Tsuji of For The Win:
“I had dinner with him his last year, in OKC, he came and we had dinner together. The stuff we was talking about, just next level as far as what he wanted to do when he was done playing, his vision as a businessman, how he wanted to leave his mark as a basketball ambassador, it was just so much we talked about and made me appreciate his intelligent mind.”
That dinner might have revealed more about Bryant’s abilities off the court than on it, and Durant said the importance of developing both aspects of his life was the biggest thing he learned from Bryant:
“Always learn and grow. Always be a sponge and be curious, whether it’s about the game, off the court, on the court. Just be curious and always grow, always want to grow as a man, as a person, as a player. It’s pretty easy to see that when you’re meeting Kobe.”
Bryant, especially later in his career, did make a concerted effort to leave an impact on the next generation of players to come through the NBA. He is continuing to do so by doing things like having dinner with Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, and making himself available to Brandon Ingram.
If Bryant can start to impact the young Lakers the same way he clearly did Durant, then it will just be one more thing that can help the rebuilding team take the next steps forward in its development process.
Either way, it will surely be cool for both them and Durant to get to see Bryant’s jerseys go up as a reminder of what can happen at the end of that journey as long as they continue to grow.
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