Lakers legend Kobe Bryant talks about the importance of Bill Russell in his career, especially post Shaquille O’ Neal’s exit from the Lakers.
Kobe is widely regarded as one of the best players ever to step on the NBA hardwood. The black mamba won 5 NBA championships in his 20-year career.
The superstar considered NBA legend and 11x champion Bill Russell as one of his mentors. Russell is immensely revered and respected in the league owing to his spectacular career.
Bill Russell even coached his team on several occasions as a player. Thus making him one of the greatest leaders the game has ever seen.
Kobe was at the most critical stage of his career, post-Shaquille O’ Neal’s exit from the Lakers, with many blaming the black mamba for Shaq’s ouster. The iconic duo had a 3-peat together with the Lakers.
In an old interview, the 2x NBA Finals MVP spoke about how Bill Russell helped him reinvent his game post Shaq’s departure.
Kobe Bryant regarded Bill Russell as one of his mentors
Bill Russell was one of the greatest innovators in basketball, so he suppressed back many of his own talents to win. This is what he told Kobe he did in order to win:
“Tactically speaking, when I played, I could score the ball, I could handle the ball, I could pass the ball, but it was really important, in order for us to win, I had to look at my teammates and say ok, there’s other players here that do that better”
“Therefore, I must allow them to do that. And what I do best is defend and rebound, so I’m gonna completely focus on that, let [Bob] Cousy handle the ball, let Sam [Jones] be the shooter, [John] Havlicek be the shooter.’ I thought that was a very insightful thing that I used when I was able to win those two championships post-Shaq.”
Kobe Bryant on what he had learned from the great Bill Russell pic.twitter.com/z5w0kWbxZd
— KBs GOAT (@KbsGoat) July 11, 2021
In 2006, Shaquille O’ Neal won his 4th NBA title with the Miami Heat, which put a lot of pressure on Kobe. However, the Lakers superstar always used the criticism and doubts that people had on him as motivation.
Kobe would go one to win back-to-back championships in 2009-10 and was crowned Finals MVP in both cases.
Kobe passed away due to a tragic helicopter crash in California. A public memorial was held at the Staples Center in which Bill Rusell showed up in a Kobe jersey. It was his way of paying homage to someone who, in Russell’s own words, he couldn’t be prouder of if he was Bill’s own son.