Kobe Bryant wasn't competing for titles during the last couple of seasons of his career. The Black Mamba found himself in a different position, trying to mentor young players to become the best version of themselves. He was part of the struggling Lakers that were trying to rebuild with young assets and the impact he had on them was really huge.
He didn't spend much time with Julius Randle but his lessons marked the current New York Knicks star, who still remembers how great Kobe was with him. Writing a piece for The Players' Tribune, Randle explained how Kobe taught a big lesson when the team traveled to Dallas and he wanted to meet his family and friends. But, the 5x NBA champion had different plans, which would change Randle's mindset forever.
“I grew up in Dallas, so I had this early-season road game against the [Dallas] Mavericks circled on my calendar,” Randle wrote. “I was excited. Excited to feel that sense of accomplishment, of being that kid from your neighborhood growing up who made it to the league.
“We flew in after a Wednesday night game, and the Mavs game wasn’t until Friday late, which meant we had an off day in Dallas. So guys were definitely going out that night. Me, I’ve got family, I’ve got a bunch of friends texting and whatnot, with this plan and that plan. Y’all have to keep in mind I’m 20 years old at this time. You can imagine where my head is at.
“So then we get off the plane, we ride to the hotel, and — ha. Wow. I will never forget this. We’re coming up on the hotel in Dallas, and Kobe turns to me and he goes, ‘Julius, what you bout to do.’
“I’m like, ‘I’m about to see my family, chill with some friends, you know. Have a night.’
“And Kobe, he just cuts me off. He’s like, ‘Nah. We’re going to the gym.’
“I mean, that right there, it’s just the power of Kobe. If anyone else in the world had said that to me, in that moment, I might have hit ’em with an eye roll and went on with my business. But when Mamba is telling you that it’s a change of plans, and you’re coming with him to the gym tonight? You don’t ask questions. You just do as you’re told.
“And of course Kobe knew we were in my hometown. Of course he knew. But that wasn’t him being a bad dude or anything. It was more like — it was him trying to use the situation to teach me a lesson. The lesson being: To get to the next level in this league, you can’t be putting in that next level of work only some of the time. Has to be all of the time. No such thing as sacrifice without sacrifice.
“That was November 2015, Kobe’s last season. And from then on, everything he showed me that night, straight up: it’s become my routine. If we’re on a road trip, as soon as we get off the plane, there you go, that’s my night — before I do anything else. I’m heading to the gym, I’m getting my shots up, I’m putting in my work.”
That was a life-changing moment for the former No. 7 overall pick, who took Kobe's words very deeply and started doing the same as the Black Mamba. Now with New York, Julius has tried to teach the same to Knicks players and the team has been very helpful with him. He added that life put him in an incredible situation related to Kobe and his work ethic.
“And what’s crazy is…. O.K., here’s the end of the story. So we’re in Detroit last season, on a road trip. And we fly in, I grab my bags, and like I said: it’s been my routine ever since that night in Dallas. Get off the plane, head to the gym. Get off the plane, head to the gym. Get off the plane, head to the gym. Like clockwork. Every city, though, it’s a new situation — there’s different places available. So what I’ll do is, I’ll have the team set up a spot in advance. And that way I can go straight there, however late it is, and get my workout in.
“On this particular trip, in Detroit, they had this little high school gym opened up for me. I love gyms like that — simple and old school. And I get to the building, and the guy who was there to let me in, I think he’s the athletic director of that school, we start talking a little bit. And he’s like, ‘It’s good to see you. Guys don’t really show up here to work out anymore. Matter of fact, the last guy to come in this late to shoot — man, that must have been years ago. It was Kobe.’
“I mean, just hearing him say the name….. it gave me chills.
“This was the month after Kobe had passed — and it was just one of those moments. One of those moments that stays with you. One of those moments that forces you to take a second, and feel humble about how connected everything is.”
That is just awesome to know. Sometimes, life works in incredible ways and this is the perfect example of that. Randle and Kobe shared more than the court and the veteran taught him a lot to the young gun. Right now he's trying to lead the New York Knicks to the postseason alongside more young players. Kobe impacted a lot of players during and after his career and this story must be one of the best about him.