Kobe Bryant served as a mentor to several NBA players and one of his best pupils is Kyrie Irving. The current Brooklyn Nets star made the most important shot of his career in 2016, against Stephen Curry in the Game 7 of the Finals. That 3-pointer gave the Cleveland Cavaliers their first title ever after coming back from a 3-1 deficit.
Kyrie was a man on a mission and he took every advice Kobe gave him on his way to the Finals and at the big stage, as well. Bryant recalled the moment Kyrie called him to thank him for his advice, which actually worked for him and his team. Asked who would be his mentee, Kobe said:
“Kyrie, certainly–I was sitting on the couch at home after Cleveland came back from that 3-1 deficit and beat Golden State, we’re watching the game, we’re sitting on the couch, me and Gianna and my phone rings, it’s facetime call, I hate facetime call, but it’s Kyrie. Kyrie’s in the locker room like ‘dude, it worked, your advice worked’ and he’s completely freaking out, he’s like ‘hey Gigi’ and Gigi is like ‘hey, congratulations,’ champagne was spilled all over the place, so I was really really proud of him. Kyrie is probably the one I’m closest to.”
Kobe talking about the time Kyrie called him after Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals
Kobe shares the advice that MJ once bestowed onto him about finding an emotional connection with each player on your team pic.twitter.com/reTbr0IoAZ
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) July 7, 2020
Then Kobe was asked what was the next step for Kyrie, explaining Irving had to learn how to get the best out of his teammates so they could be better, make him better and improve the quality of the team.
“The next move for him is figuring out how to get the most out of the pieces around him. That’s really hard, how do you find an emotional connection with each player? Figure out where their fears are and how turn those fears into strengths and to do that you have to put time in, I don’t mean time in the gym, I mean time listening, breakfast, lunch, dinner, listening to those guys. [That happened to me] after we lost to the Celtics, ’cause Michael [Jordan] told me the same thing. ‘You have all the individual tools, now you gotta figure out how to connect with each one of those guys and bring the best out of those guys, it’s not about just passing them the ball and say that’s what makes guys better,’ that’s not it. You have to figure out how to touch the right bottoms to make them wanna be the best version of themselves and that was my challenge; in 09 and 2010 I was able to figure it out and that’s what Kyrie has to figure out.”
Three years after that moment, we’re yet to see Kyrie becoming a true leader in the league. After he left Cleveland, he joined the Boston Celtics and his tenure in Boston was anything but good. Now with the Brooklyn Nets, people expect him to be better than with the C’s but we’ll have to wait until next season to see that.