In the latter years of his career, Kobe Bryant became a mentor for several young NBA stars who have gone on to achieve a lot of success in the league. Bryant became the elder statesman of the league and took it upon himself to help guide the new generation of NBA superstars.
One of the players he forged a great relationship with was Kyrie Irving. Kyrie entered the league in 2011 as the first overall pick in the draft. Playing for the Cavaliers, Irving quickly became the central piece of the franchise.
Phil Handy revealed in the past how he asked Kobe to mentor Kyrie after he saw Irving's potential when he arrived in Cleveland. Kobe and Kyrie went on to forge a solid mentor-mentee bond and became very close with each other.
In fact, Kyrie even demanded that the NBA change their logo to Kobe Bryant after his unfortunate passing.
But while Kobe was trying to help Kyrie, he was not taking it easy on him by any means. During the 2012 Olympics, Kobe and Kyrie were selected to represent Team USA. At one training session, they started talking trash about each other when discussing who would win a 1 vs. 1 game between the two (1:00 mark).
Kyrie: "He think he talking to a high school kid"
Kobe: "You just came out of high school, kid!"
Kobe's presence in the league when these players entered the NBA was a big boost to them. For much of these players, Bryant was the person they grew up idolizing. He was the face of the NBA during their formative years and a big inspiration to many of them.
Kobe felt a responsibility to the younger players in the league to guide them, much like his idol Michael Jordan did for him. While Kobe was still competitive and wanted to win at all times, he had softened his stance enough and wanted to help the next generation find success in the NBA.