Sunday, February 25

Lakers News: James Worthy Recalls Workouts With Kobe Bryant Showing Hunger For Basketball Knowledge

The late Kobe Bryant’s work ethic has been a subject of countless stories told over the years, adding to the legend of the great Los Angeles Lakers forward.

Through those stories, former and current NBA stars have been using Bryant’s fabled “Mamba Mentality” as a source of inspiration. When in the Orlando bubble during the 2019-20 season, the Purple and Gold watched a Bryant tribute video to embody the five-time NBA champion’s determination and passion for the game

Member of the Lakers’ Showtime era James Worthy recently offered another insight into Bryant’s perfectionism. In his cameo on Adam Mendler’s “Thirty Minute Mentors” podcast, Worthy recalled the first time he worked out with the would-be franchise legend, emphasizing the eagerness with which he went through the session:

Kobe Bryant and I had a relationship because he was a sponge for information. I’ve never seen a kid other than Michael Jordan who just didn’t have too many other hobbies. Basketball was it. And my first experience with Kobe is he wanted me to help just with some footwork. And we were talking about some of the science of how to set up your man and drop steps and up and unders and all these things he was really interested in. You could see it in his eyes. He was just thinking, every word that came out of your mouth. He was really absorbing it. And then he went on to tell me – I hadn’t showed him this move yet – and we were at the end of a session and he says to me, “What about your step back rocker move?” And I said, “We haven’t even talked about that yet.” When he was a kid, he was in Italy with his dad – his dad played basketball in Italy – and his father used to send for these NBA games via VHS and beta – if you, you know, old enough to remember that – and Kobe used to watch an entire season delay of NBA games. And he said, “I watched you play in ‘85” or something like that. He must have been 12. And he said, “I saw this move and I just started doing it in on the playground.” Then he did it. And that’s who he was.

Worthy added Bryant would keep the same hunger for basketball wisdom throughout his career. He surprised Worthy during his last NBA season, 20 years after that first workout, asking him for another footwork practice to learn how to position himself on the court without using up too much of his energy.

And if you want to fast forward that to his last year, this [20th] year, I got a call at 9:30 at night – this was when I was helping Byron Scott with some of his bigs as far as footwork. It’s Julius Randle and Larry Nance and some of those guys and Kobe was still on the team. And he said, “Could you meet me in the gym? In the morning.” I was like, this is weird. I mean, what does he want? I thought maybe he just wanted to talk about the future or some. And he wanted to know about frickin’ footwork. In his [20th] year. And I had seen him demonstrate just about everything I had done plus more. But he was getting a little older. And he wanted to know a few more things about how he could get position without working so hard. You know how he could set up players with his eyes. How he’d look away. And you know, it just never stopped with him. And he was an assassin. I hadn’t seen anybody like him since Michael Jordan. And they ended up having a great relationship. I can remember Kobe Bryant’s first meeting with Michael Jordan. And all he did was ask questions. “How do you do this?” You know, they’d be in a timeout or they’d be at the free-throw line, and Kobe – cause he’s like that, Michael was like that – he’s like a mosquito. You just keep smacking him off of you. You just keep smacking him off of you. But he just loved to ask questions. And he always knew what he wanted to know.

During the final stages of the 2020 playoffs, James spoke about Bryant’s unique approach to practice. James said he could relate to Bryant’s acceptance of the fact that hard work comes before one can see the results of their effort in the gym.

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Worthy critical of Lakers’ form in recent weeks

Worthy’s memories associated with the 2021-22 Lakers won’t be as fond as those of Bryant. The 60-year-old heavily criticized L.A. for its dreadful form after the Purple and Gold fell to the Portland Trail Blazers earlier in February.

Worthy said the defeat made for “the lowest point of just about any season I’ve ever seen as a Laker over the years.” The Blazers beat the Lakers right after parting ways with half of their roster before this year’s trade deadline.

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