Pau Gasol has shared the basketball court with a number of all-time great NBA players, including Kobe Bryant. And after spending the second half of the 2018-19 NBA season with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, Gasol believes there are a few similarities between the two players.
Gasol and Bryant shared the court for 6.5 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning two championships in three consecutive NBA Finals appearances. Gasol left the Lakers for the Chicago Bulls after the 2013-14 NBA season when they finished with a horrid 27-55 record.
Since the Bulls, Gasol has spent a few seasons with the San Antonio Spurs before getting bought out and signing with the Bucks for the rest of this season. A stress fracture kept him out of the 2019 NBA playoffs, but he still spent meaningful time with Antetoukounmpo.
According to Gasol, Antetokounmpo and Bryant share some similarities, via The Players’ Tribune:
And here’s what I will tell you: Giannis and Young Kobe share some important qualities.
Of course, Antetokounmpo and Bryant are very different players. At age 24 — the same age as Antetokounmpo — Bryant averaged 30.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 5.9 assists while he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists. However, Bryant averaged 41.5 minutes in all 82 games while Antetokounmpo averaged 32.8 minutes in 72 games.
However, Gasol clarified what he meant as such a brilliant basketball mind would know that the two have extremely different play styles:
Like I said, Giannis is not Kobe. But both guys bring an uncommon intensity and competitiveness to the way they play, and it’s only something you can really see if you’ve been near them. You see it in their eyes. They both bring an edge to the way they practice, too. I’ve been Giannis’s teammate for far less time than I was Kobe’s, but I know what Kobe’s approach to practice was like. He practiced as hard as he played. To Kobe, everything was a challenge.
Antetokounmpo perhaps learned that ‘Mamba Mentality’ from Bryant himself. The two worked out together in the seasons leading up to his MVP-caliber year.
In addition to that, Bryant issued a challenge to Antetokounmpo to win the award, something he is possibly on the verge of doing.
Regardless of the playoff result, the NBA award show in June will determine if Antetokounmpo captured his first MVP award, which will further prove Gasol’s opinion.