Throughout the history of the NBA, many generational greats have come and gone, contributing to the overall landscape of what the NBA has become. The Los Angeles Lakers, with their 16 championships, have had their own fair share of legends that have graced the court, leaving a lasting legacy that has impacted youth around the world.
A prime example of that lasting legacy resides with Kobe Bryant, a five-time champion whose work ethic and dedication to greatness far exceeded the expectations placed by the franchise themselves. Bryant’s desire to be better than everyone else was his fuel, as his competitive nature drove him to reach heights no other player had ever seen.
Now that Bryant has drifted into retirement, the players that molded their won game after Bryant are left to lead the NBA into this new age of up-tempo, high-scoring battles. However, Bryant didn’t do it all on his own, with many coaches and instructors who have imparted wisdom onto the 18-time All-Star.
One of those instructors was Phil Handy, the Lakers director of player development from Dec. 2011 to May 2013. During that stretch, Handy got to work alongside Bryant and help rejuvenate that elite footwork that separated him from the competition. Handy now resides as an assistant coach and the director of player development for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Handy has the opportunity to work alongside not only LeBron James, but also one of the best ball handlers of all time in Kyrie Irving. In fact, Handy admitted in a recent interview that he helped mold Irving’s footwork and offensive arsenal after that of Bryant’s, via Max Resetar of SlamOnline.com:
“When I first came, I told Kobe, I really would like you to build a relationship with Kyrie,” Handy said. “Is it OK if he reaches out? And I encouraged Ky, Look, man, draw from him. Reach out to him. Talk to him. His work ethic, it really grew. He fell in love with working on his game and the success that comes from it. He’s taken a lot from Kobe.”
Often times, you hear about how the new generation of NBA players have often molded their games around those that paved the way for them. After all the hard work and years grinding leads to their first official NBA contract, they then have a chance to interact, compete and grow alongside the players they grew up idolizing.
Irving and Bryant have had quite the back-and-forth relationship, stemming back to a video where Irving boldly proclaimed he could beat Bryant 1-on-1 (H/T to Matthew Lucio). The pair exchanged smack talk, which was a predecessor to the interactions the two would later have on the court.
Handy has worked alongside many NBA legends during his career, whether during his two seasons with the Lakers or during the current championship run with the Cavaliers. The assistant coach of the Cavaliers was actually credited with helping the Cavaliers’ resurgence in the NBA Finals, with a profanity-laced tirade that startled the entire roster.