Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour last season was (somewhat justifiably) criticized for taking focus and opportunities away from the Los Angeles Lakers’ stable of young talent. Bryant was occasionally painted as a bad teammate for it, and whether that was true or not likely depends on one’s perspective.
According to Bryant’s former teammate Julius Randle, however, the retired Lakers legend has continued to be generous with his time and knowledge even though they no longer share a locker room.
“I still talk to Kob' to this day,” Randle said in an appearance on “The Vertical Podcast with Woj. “I remember we were about to play a team, and he knew a guy really well on the team and played with him, and I'm like 'What's some of this guy's weaknesses or what does he not like?' and he told me.”
Randle didn’t specify whether the plan worked, but he did reveal that scouting reports aren’t the only thing he texts Bryant about.
“He'll text me or talk to me or whatever whether it's congratulating me on my baby or going to Orange County to work out with him. He's open, he's still there, he's still available,” Randle said. “I think for me, that was bigger than anything because I knew he physically couldn't do it [last season]. He was at the end of his career and he couldn't do it, and he couldn't practice, and he couldn't show us as much as he used to be able to.”
Randle also made it sound like his workouts with Bryant could provide enough material for an amazing podcast on their own. Bryant’s love and respect for Michael Jackson and other non-basketball players who were as successful in their profession as Bryant was on the court is well known, and it turns out Bryant’s workouts include references to that.
"Going into my rookie year I was just talking about preparation,” Randle said. “[Kobe and I] were working out and I wasn't doing something right, and he was like 'you got to do it right, right now. You got to go through the pain, go through the fatigue, all of that right now. You got to fight through it right now, because when the lights come on, Michael Jackson doesn't sweat while he's performing. Michael Jackson's not breathing hard when he's performing. He's doing all of that before, he's doing all of that in his preparation and his work so when the lights come on he's ready and it's second nature.'"
Of course Bryant tried to convince Randle to work hard by referencing Jackson’s prep routine, but he makes a solid point. Players do need to spend time on the gym working on their craft correctly, with the old adage of preparing smarter rather than harder applying doubly so in the world of professional basketball.
It sounds as though some of the lesson’s Bryant passed along are sticking, with more still to come given that the two are still in contact. Randle getting a chance to continue to pick Bryant’s brain can really only be a good thing for the Lakers, as well as running counter to the narrative of him being a bad or uncaring teammate.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.