Since Kobe Bryant’s retirement following the 2015-16 NBA season, he has become a mentor to several of today’s NBA superstars in the making.
He’s been seen working with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, and most importantly, Kyrie Irving.
Bryant has maintained time and time again that the only connection he wants to the NBA is helping players who reach out to him, and Irving was one of the earliest to do so. The two began their relationship when Bryant was still playing, and it’s his advice that Irving credited for one of his greatest accomplishments: 2016 NBA Finals against Golden State Warriors.
Bryant spoke about his relationship with Irving and provided a great anecdote about how his advice played a role in sparking the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 3-1 comeback to defeat the Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, via Sirius XM:
“I’ve had a few of them… you know Kyrie certainly. I remember sitting on the couch at home after Cleveland came back from that 3-1 deficit and beat Golden State. We’re watching the game, we’re sitting on the couch. Me and Gianna are there just kind of hanging out. And my phone rings and it’s a FaceTime call. I hate FaceTime calls… don’t FaceTime call me unless it’s my family, but it’s Kyrie. I pick it up and Kyrie’s in the locker room celebrating on FaceTime like, ‘Dude it worked, your advice worked!'”
Bryant’s ‘Mamba Mentality’ is one of the most well-documented mindsets in NBA history. That mentality is what Bryant credits for his five championships in seven Finals appearances and countless other accomplishments.
Irving being able to point to that as his inspiration for winning one of the most impressive championships of all time certainly adds another wrinkle to Bryant’s legacy in the modern NBA.
Another layer to this is the constant rumors that Irving might want to play with LeBron James and the Lakers. It’s possible that a relationship with Bryant could help the Lakers sign Irving in 2019 free agency.