Some time in early November, Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma and living Lakers legend Kobe Bryant grabbed dinner at a steakhouse in West Hollywood. Since then, Kuzma and Bryant have seemingly formed a relationship, with Kuzma saying he and the Mamba talk “a lot” in an interview with “The Starters” in May.
But what exactly has Bryant been telling the 22-year-old rising star? No one knows but Bryant and Kuzma, but Kuzma did gave fans a small taste of the advice he’s received from the five-time NBA champion in Kevin Ding’s latest installment of “The Point” on Lakers.com.
Perhaps the danger for Kuzma, with as much as he craves significance, is pushing to the point of overconfidence?
Well, that’s ground he made sure to cover with Bryant over that steak dinner in November. Kuzma had a lot of questions that night — and Bryant admires others who are curious by nature — but what Bryant answered about disregarding all the predictable praise people would lavish sustained Kuzma through his bandwagon-building rookie season.
“When he was a young player,” Kuzma said, “everybody would in a sense toot his horn or kiss his ass. His way of not getting overhyped confidence-wise, even though he was still very confident, was to say, ‘OK, (forget) this guy. He might tell me something great, but he don’t mean that.’
“That really helped me stay level-headed. That was one thing that continues with me to this day, and I’ll probably never forget that.”
If there’s one thing Bryant didn’t lack, it was confidence, on and off the court. Bryant must see some of that “Mamba Mentality” in Kuzma, because not every late first-round pick has the opportunity to sit down and talk basketball with one of the greatest to ever lace them up, something Kuzma told Ding he’s well aware of:
“To even get a dinner with Kobe Bryant,” he said, “you’ve got to be cut from some type of cloth that he is — or he isn’t going to waste his time.”
The next step in Bryant and Kuzma’s relationship is for them to get on a court together. Kuzma’s post moves already pretty sweet for a rookie, but a few pointers from Bryant certainly couldn’t hurt.
Maybe next year, Ben.
If you enjoyed this article, please send it to our in-house Kobe Bryant fan Anthony Irwin (@AnthonyIrwinLA) with the hashtag #MambaMentality. He would really enjoy that.