Lou Williams wasn’t a member of the Los Angeles Lakers for very long, but he was there for the final season Kobe Bryant spent with the team, and it’s left him with some memorable stories about what it was like to play with No. 24.
Williams has already told the story of how after a blowout loss in Portland, Bryant collected any pairs of his signature shoes that his teammates were wearing and told them they hadn’t earned the right to wear them because they were “playing soft.” And now, during an appearance on “WYD? with Ros Gold-Onwude,” Williams revealed that taking the shoes wasn’t the only change Bryant made that night:
“We were in Portland and we got blown out. He wasn’t very happy about us getting blown out. He said ‘from now on out, every trip down the court, I touch the basketball.’ He told the whole team. He said ‘I touch the basketball every time down the court, and y’all are gonna learn what it’s like to play with Kobe F’in Bean Bryant.’
“And (he had) a straight look on his face. He wasn’t joking. ‘From now on out, the rest of the season, I touch the ball every time down the court.’”
Now, Williams doesn’t specify the specific game here, but since he only played one year with Bryant, it’s pretty easy to make an informed guess at not only which game this was, but that both of these things happened on the same night.
The Lakers only played two games in Portland during Bryant’s last season: A 12-point loss on Nov. 28, 2015, and an 18-point defeat on Jan. 23, 2016. Unless Williams is misremembering or has a different definition of “blowout,” the latter game is likely the one where Bryant took the shoes from his teammates and demanded that they pass him the ball every time down the floor.
Backing up that assumption somewhat are the numbers from that season. Prior to the loss in Portland, Bryant was already leading the Lakers with a usage rate — the percentage of their possessions that ended in a shot, assist, turnover of free-throws drawn by Bryant — of 29.1%, according to NBA.com. After that defeat? Bryant used 34.8% of the team’s possessions for the remaining 36 games.
For context on how astronomical that was, the next closest Laker was D’Angelo Russell, with 24.3%, and Bryant would have nearly led the league with such a usage rate if it had taken place over the entire season. So his talk apparently had the intended effect, and is yet another entry in the legends of Bryant’s self-assuredness.