As the 2016 NBA Draft approached, the Los Angeles Lakers were rumored to take just about every prospect and their entire family at one point. The team was supposedly interested in Kris Dunn, trade offers were reportedly making the Lakers’ phones ring off of the hook, and Chad Ford’s words got misread as a report the Lakers wanted to trade D’Angelo Russell and draft Marquese Chriss.
It was a weird time.
It was probably even stranger to be a part of the whole process, something New Orleans Pelicans rookie guard Buddy Hield has some firsthand experience with. Hield worked out for the Lakers as the team did their due diligence on players available with the second overall pick. The team actually selecting him always seemed fairly unlikely, but as Hield told the Player’s Tribune in an article on what he’s learned from Kobe Bryant, a text from the Mamba left him thinking he might be heading to Los Angeles:
Draft night came up fast — one minute it was the NCAA Tournament and the next thing I knew I was getting fitted for a suit and all that. Sitting in the green room I was seeing a lot of numbers on my phone that I didn’t recognize. So many people were calling and texting with advice and predictions about where I would go, or where I should go.
A few people were asking, Could the Lakers take me at No. 2?
So when Kobe texted, my first thought was, Does he have some … inside info?
It turns out the answer was “probably not” (the Lakers of course selected Duke’s Brandon Ingram second overall), but Bryant’s text to Hield is a window into the unique mindset that led him to have such a great career:
First he said, What’s up? and then said congratulations. But the last thing he wrote to me is what I still think about.
“It doesn’t matter where you go,” he wrote. “It matters more what you do when you get there. Just go there and work.”
No inside info. No tips. No recruiting me to the Lakers or anything like that. Soon after, the Pelicans picked me at No. 6.
Hield offered plenty more thoughts on his relationship with Bryant (including a first-person account of what it’s like to work out with him) in the Player’s Tribune, and the whole thing is worth a read.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.