For 20 years, Kobe Bryant was the standard for greatness not just for the Los Angeles Lakers, but for the entire NBA. His work ethic inspired a generation of young players, including some, if not all, of the Lakers’ young core.
It’s for that reason Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Clarkson, who played with Bryant for two seasons, paid tribute to the Mamba for The Players’ Tribune on Monday.
Kuzma talks about how fascinated he is with Bryant, his work ethic and competitive fire in the video.
“It’s a person I always wanted to meet,” Kuzma says in the video. “Not so much just so say ‘Hey, I met Kobe Bryant, but to really pick his brain.
“He plays like it’s his last game Plays like he’s never gonna play again.”
Kuzma and Bryant have met and actually went out to dinner last month, where they talked about basketball and enjoyed steaks. Ingram hasn’t gone out to dinner with Kobe, but has spoken to him over the phone on several occasions to discuss flim, according to Ingram.
“To even be a Laker, it’s like ‘Wow’ ... now I’m walking in a tunnel and, of course, I have Kobe’s old locker, and it’s like ‘Wow, this is where he sat at for 20 years. This is where he was.’ It’s inspiration,” Ingram says of filling Bryant’s big shoes.
Clarkson is the only player in this video that can say he played with Bryant, and he didn’t hold back when talking about his former teammate.
“Something wrong with that dude,” Clarkson says jokingly, “but that’s what made him great.”
Clarkson’s sophomore season was Bryant’s last, and Clarkson got to be a part of Bryant’s 60-point finale, even picking up Bryant’s last ever assist.
“I think he got the best, one of the best, going-out games ever. It was like a dream ot be honest. It’s still a blurr like ... everybody was just paying respect ... I don’t think anybody else going out like that, for sure.”
The trio of young players now carry the hefty task of trying to bring a champion back to Los Angeles, but Kuzma believes that Bryant’s career should inspire them to be great.
“If Kobe Bryant can do it, why can’t we?” Kuzma says.
The Lakers will retire Bryant’s jerseys, No.’s 8 and 24, during halftime vs. the Golden State Warriors on Monday.