When talking about the greatness of Kobe Bryant, one thing that is consistently brought up is this idea that he won his last two titles with the Los Angeles Lakers without a co-star. While it might be true Bryant didn’t have the super team the Miami Heat had or the Golden State Warriors have, he did have an All-Star teammate in Pau Gasol.
In their seven seasons together, Bryant and Gasol made the playoffs six times and appeared in the NBA Finals three times, including in their first season together in 2008. Unfortunately, the Lakers came up short to the Boston Celtics, but they would have the last laugh in 2010, besting the Celtics in seven games.
However, before they could win back-to-back championships together, Bryant felt he had to get under Gasol’s skin to motivate him, and he explained his interesting strategy to do so to Lewis Howes in an interview on “The School of Greatness”.
“One of my favorite ones, Pau hates it every time I tell this story. Hates it. But we lost to the Celtics in ‘08. And it was a physical series, I mean, they beat the crap out of us. So we go into the Olympic year that year, we played Spain in the gold medal match and we beat them. So now we come back to start training camp, and when Pau shows up first day of training camp, I have my gold medal hanging in his locker.
“The one thing that he truly, truly loves is his country, and that is like everything to him. So it just drove him crazy. I said ‘Pau, listen...’ and he said ‘You’re an a--hole!’ I said ‘Listen, Pau, you lost to the Celtics, you lost to us in the gold medal match, let’s not make this three in a row this year, okay? Let’s win this thing.’ And that was it for him.”
Bryant is notorious for getting to his teammates’ ears to motivate them. Even in his later years with the rebuilding Lakers, he was trash talking at practice and telling his teammates they suck.
Bryant’s leadership style isn’t for everyone, but for Gasol, it was exactly what he needed to take his game to the next level and become Bryant’s “Black Swan.” You can argue the methods, for sure, but you can also count the ringzz they led to. To quote Bryant himself, “friends can come and go, but banners hang forever.”
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