20-year Los Angeles Lakers veteran Kobe Bryant broke the purple and gold rule book, inadvertently helping the Boston Celtics after breaking down game film with Isaiah Thomas during the NBA Playoffs. Thomas revealed he’s been working with the Black Mamba just last week, and now Kobe opened up about how it all went down.
Truth be told, it’s a very cool story, and this has always clearly been something that’s bigger than hoops. Thomas losing his sister to a tragic car accident is heart wrenching, and Bryant decided he wanted to reach out to offer his condolences.
Kobe gave ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan an illuminating interview, going into fairly-specific detail about how he’s lending a helping hand to a variety of star players. He also shared some further context about his relationship with Thomas, including the advice he gave Isaiah that he ultimately took to heart.
Bryant explains that Isaiah opened up to him about his turmoil over whether he should play in the Celtics’ opening games of the NBA Playoffs during their first conversation. Kobe shared these words of wisdom with his pupil, nicknamed Mighty IT by the Mamba himself (via MacMullan):
"I told him, 'Listen, I don't know whether you should decide to play or not play. Obviously none of us can begin to fathom what you are going through right now,'" Bryant said. "But then I told him, 'The one bit of advice I would give you is, if you are going to play, then you gotta play. Maybe you can find some peace in moments out there.'"
Bryant says he ended the conversation by telling Thomas, "If you ever need anything, just reach out. I'm here for you."
Thomas, in an 0-2 hole against the Bulls, decided it was time to follow-up on that offer.
He put in the call to Kobe, and the two got to work immediately. The duo watched film of the Celtics vs. Bulls series, with Bryant pointing things out over the phone during their simulwatch:
The two players set up their laptops and did a video tour of the game action together.
"I'd see something and I'd tell him, 'OK, go to 12:01,'" Bryant said. "It was more a conceptual lesson how to watch film. What should you look for? You have so many eyes on you defensively, what should you do here, when they trap? And what should you do there?
"I was happy to help him. He had the courage to ask. I did the same thing with Michael Jordan when I was a young player."
Bryant says pop star Michael Jackson gave him some treasured advice in his rookie season during a visit to Neverland Ranch: Reach out to all the greats in your profession and learn from them.
Kobe’s never shied away from reaching out to the legends that came before him, whether that’s Jerry West or Hakeem Olajuwon. Bryant paying it forward is a very cool gesture from someone who already gave the NBA 20 years of his life.
Bryant called the notion that he shouldn’t be helping Thomas because he’s a Celtic “complete nonsense,” and he’s unquestionably right. That this whole ordeal stemmed from Kobe reaching out to console Thomas and extend his hand is the human side of the Black Mamba that we don’t get to see or hear about very often.
Great story, and a reminder that the NBA players weave a pretty awesome family.