During the final few seasons of Kobe Bryant’s career, fans truly got to appreciate his greatness and all that he did for the Los Angeles Lakers. Although his last seasons were during a rebuilding effort, players like Nick Young and Jordan Clarkson got to witness a childhood idol up close and personal.
Young was born and raised in Los Angeles, dominating the courts of Cleveland High School and USC before being selected 16th overall during the 2007 NBA Draft. It was during his development when he began to idolize Bryant and his scoring capabilities, when Bryant reigned supreme as the elite scorer in the NBA.
At the same time, when Young joined the Lakers he would provide the opposite demeanor and personality as his idol, finally getting a chance to play alongside Bryant. Young was the relaxed and goofy presence on the team, which sometimes would be the polar opposite of Bryant. During an interview with Katie Baker of The Ringer, Young opened up about when Bryant invited him to an early workout, getting to know the person, as well as the player:
On the Lakers, Young got a chance to play alongside his slightly less free-spirited idol, which was a trip: “You watch him, you wear his jersey, you try to be like him on the playground,” he says of Kobe Bryant, “then you’re actually playing with him on the court. He used to call at 6 a.m. telling me to come to Orange County, like an hour away. I’d get on the road and get there just in time. Just seeing Kobe walk into the gym, early a.m., with his shades on? I thought that was cool. That’s Kobe.”
Bryant has always remained one of the more professional players in recent NBA history, developing into a spokesperson for the league. Former NBA players have attested to his insane work ethic on and off the court, as the 18-time All-Star would never settle for anything less than perfection. The 20-year veteran and future Hall-of-Famer was the forefront for player responses towards the end of his career, turning into the business professional and intellectual mind that we know today.
Growing up in the western part of Los Angeles, Young witnessed the three-peat Lakers teams, while eventually joining the NBA when Bryant captured his fourth and fifth titles. While he was at USC, his coaches would always point to how he would mimic his game after Bryant’s, as he worked on the deadly scoring arsenal that Bryant had perfected.
Young spent four seasons with the Lakers before departing in free agency to the Pacific Division rival and reigning champion Golden State Warriors. He elected to sign a one-year, $5.2 million deal, although he could have fetched a lot more in the open market. The sharpshooter was coming off of a season where he shot a near career high of 40.4 percent from three-point range, averaging 13.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game.