For many of the superstars in the NBA today, Kobe Bryant was a huge inspiration. Most of the players in the NBA grew up watching Kobe Bryant dominate the game with the Los Angeles Lakers. And for many players, he was their favorite player growing up.
In the post-Michael Jordan years of the NBA, Kobe became one of the faces of the NBA, alongside LeBron James. So it comes as no surprise that many of today's stars looked up to Kobe for what he was able to do on the court.
But quite a lot of them got the chance to play against Kobe too. Bryant had a 20-year career in the NBA, which allowed him to mix it up with players from different eras. By the 2010s, many of today's superstars were making waves and got to face off against Kobe whenever they played the Lakers.
During his final years in the league, Kobe became a bit of an elder-statesman figure, giving advice to the next crop of stars that were just coming into their own in the league. And one of the best players in the NBA had a hilarious interaction with Bryant at his first All-Star game.
At the 2020 NBA All-Star game, Kawhi Leonard was named the Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP. After the game, Leonard revealed the details of his interaction with Bryant during his first All-Star appearance in 2016, which was Kobe's last.
Bryant asked Kawhi what was the most number of shots he ever took in a game. Leonard, who was initially confused by the question, told Kobe that he shot 19 times in one game. Bryant suggested that he needed to up those numbers, while also trying to compete with the then-young upstart, revealing that he once shot 47 times in a game.
“We were talking, and he was competitive, and he was like, ‘How many shots have you shot in a game?’ And I was like, ‘What you mean?’ And (he said), ‘How many shot attempts have you shot?’ And I was like, ‘My highest?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ I was like, ‘I probably shot 19 times.’ And then he goes, ‘Guess how many times I’ve shot…I shot it 47 times.'”
Perhaps Kobe's advice worked for Kawhi. Over the next few years, Leonard, who was primarily known for his defensive prowess, improved significantly as an offensive player.
He became less afraid to shoot it, and maybe that was Kobe's intention all along. Or maybe Kobe was just getting competitive with Kawhi, as he was known to do.
Kobe tried to help the young players during the final years of his career. But even after Kobe retired, he made sure to stay in touch with the next crop of stars. Players like Jayson Tatum and Devin Booker clearly resemble Kobe in the way they play and have tried to emulate the way Bryant approached the game.