Kobe Bryant is an NBA icon that players across the world have looked up to for years. The closest comparable player in terms of impact has been LeBron James, someone who himself had been mentored by Kobe Bryant earlier in his career.
Players that have had the chance to interact with either player are often full of compliments about what the pair has to say and have achieved in the game. Young players do so especially, as both Kobe and LeBron represent a measuring stick of success in the NBA.
Kyle Kuzma was lucky enough to form a close relationship with both men because he was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017. Kobe was around to guide the young Lakers rookies after his 2016 retirement and built a friendship with Kuz. LeBron joined the team in 2018 and mentored Kuzma until he was traded away in 2021 for Russell Westbrook.
Kuzma opened up on the impact that both men had on him during his time with the Lakers on Draymond Green's podcast.
"The biggest thing he always said was 'keep the main thing, the main thing'. That was one, and two, that was like my North Star, 'you may never get there but what you get out of it is what you're trying to reach'. The ultimate professional, take care of your body, playing every single game, having this type of mentality like 'I am here for a reason. This is my purpose. Having somebody like that early on in my career changed everything for me."
"I could say the same thing about Bron coming in Year 2 and seeing it from a player perspective. Kobe was here, but he was retired by that point, so it was word of mouth. With LeBron, I am really seeing it too."
"Having that relationship with Kobe, man, was everything. I still have the text messages, I never deleted them. Things to go back on, things to think of life, like he was just so smart about everything. Not just the game, even things you think of. The attention to detail he had in basketball? He had in life, he had in business, he had in relationships. That's what I want for my life."
Kuzma is already an NBA Champion and has a career's worth of accomplishments still to look forward to. He proved his skill last season with the Washington Wizards and will hope the team can make a run to the playoffs with Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis.
Kobe and LeBron have positively affected Kuzma's career for the rest of his life and there is no doubt that the Michigan native will always be grateful for these experiences.