When the Los Angeles Lakers hired Rob Pelinka — the former agent for Kobe Bryant — to help run the franchise as general manager, there was speculation such a move might signal that the team was back under Bryant’s influence on some level, even in the midst of his retirement.
So far that hasn’t been the case, with Bryant opting mostly to focus on his other businesses and storytelling projects. During an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” he explained why:
Kimmel: Do you take any role in encouraging guys like LeBron, Lakers free agents, to come to Los Angeles, other than maybe a tweet or something like that?
Bryant: “No, I stay away from it. I’m real close with Rob obviously, and we’ll talk often, just as a sounding board for him.”
Would you be allowed to do that? Or would Rob get fined if you were to do something like that?
“No, I could do that.”
So you could be his surrogate and reach out to (players)?
“I could, but I won’t.”
Why won’t you?
“I stay away from that stuff. And Rob is more than capable of handling the job and all the pressure that comes along with that.”
That’s a pretty strong vote of confidence from Bryant, and one Pelinka is probably thankful for after a summer that saw mixed reviews for his performance. Pelinka’s work in building out the Lakers’ roster following Kawhi Leonard passing on the team in free agency drew some level of praise, but that was only after Magic Johnson accused Pelinka of “backstabbing” and “betrayal” when both were working for the Lakers, in addition to the team’s negotiations with Tyronn Lue casting some level of doubt on the competency of the front office.
The point is, Bryant — maybe the most legendary Laker ever — giving Pelinka such a strong endorsement can only help Pelinka’s perception amongst the always-passionate fanbase. But according to Bryant, that’s about all the help Pelinka is going to get from him, because as much as Bryant appreciates his former agent and friend for his skills as a negotiator, he also told Kimmel that Pelinka could only help him so much while he was playing for the Lakers, so he’s just returning the favor.
“I’m quick to tell him ‘listen, man, you’re my guy, but you didn’t get out on the court and score 40 points for me either. So I’m not going to do your job for you.’”
And if Bryant is to be believed, Pelinka doesn’t need him to.