Kobe Bryant doesn’t train just any NBA player, which may have been why social media was abuzz last week when Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum posted photos of himself working out with the legendary Los Angeles Lakers guard.
That workout in and of itself likely didn’t say anything about Bryant’s views on the Lakers’ young core, but the people who thought it did aren’t going to take what Bryant said to Tatum’s trainer, Drew Hanlen, at that workout any better.
During an appearance on a recent episode of “The Sidelines with Evan Daniels,” Hanlen briefly spoke about the video he tweeted comparing Tatum’s moves to Bryant’s, and said Bryant’s reaction to being shown the similarities was simple:
“It was cool, we actually showed Kobe it yesterday and he was like ‘Why didn’t the Lakers draft him?’ Which was pretty funny after seeing that. But Jayson idolized Kobe.”
Now, Bryant very well — and likely was — at least slightly kidding, but he surely wasn’t the only one asking after a solid rookie season from Tatum culminated in an incredible playoff run that saw Tatum go toe-to-toe with now-Lakers star LeBron James.
And to be fair to Bryant, the video did look pretty amazing. I mean, who wouldn't want to draft this guy?
It's also important to note that this is a secondhand quote, although Hanlen has no obvious reason to misrepresent what Bryant said.
Plus, and most importantly, this isn't necessarily a diss of Lonzo Ball or any of the Lakers' other draft picks, and is likely more of just a compliment to Tatum. Not that people are going to take it that way now, but still.
The other context here is that Bryant is surely flattered by Tatum's mimicry, and probably is just as much pumping up a player who is patterning his game after Bryant's own as he is voicing his respect for a player he clearly liked enough to work out with.
In fact, Hanlen said Tatum idolized Bryant so much that Hanlen actually used video of Bryant’s jab steps to train Tatum:
"The second week (of training Tatum) I said ‘All right listen, we’ve got to get you really good at the jab step. I know you love Kobe, so we watched all of Kobe’s jab steps. We identified the four major jab steps that he did and we spent one week on the jab step without shooting a shot. 13 years old. That’s when I knew he was special.”
And again, Bryant acknowledging that specialness doesn't have to be taken as anything but a compliment, even if the way Hanlen recalls it will surely be interpreted as a diss by some.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.