Before Anthony Davis officially became basketball’s next big thing, he won a gold medal alongside the likes of LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Kevin Durant as a member of Team USA. The on-court lessons he learned from the game’s greatest players in London have surely been instrumental to his meteoric rise up the NBA’s individual hierarchy. To help the perpetually snake-bitten New Orleans Pelicans emerge the Western Conference cellar, though, Davis is taking intangible guidance from one of his former Olympic teammates in particular.
In a story about the 23-year-old’s desire to become a better leader this season, Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding recalls advice Davis once received from Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.
“A guy has something in his teeth, and other guys just talk to him and let him be. They’re not going to tell him,” Bryant told Davis. “I’m going to be the guy to tell you you’ve got something between your teeth. Then it’s on you whether you want to walk around looking stupid. But I am going to tell you.”
The notion that leadership is best derived from direct action isn’t a consensus. Tim Duncan, for instance, is one of the most inspirational and beloved teammates in history of the NBA despite a far more hands-off approach. But Bryant’s counsel loomed large to Davis nonetheless, and he’s planning on implementing it in 2017-17 after realizing his more natural tendencies weren’t getting the job done.
“I was always a guy who was quiet on the basketball floor,” Davis says, noting how Kendrick Perkins and Quincy Pondexter were more equipped with experience to be team leaders last season. “Even in high school, at Kentucky, here, I was always a quiet guy. Outside the locker room, we can talk and kid all day. But I’ve always just been a guy who is real laid-back.
“I know in order for us to win, in order for us to have success, I’ve got to get out of my comfort zone. That’s what I’m determined to do this year.”
It’s commendable that Davis is taking responsibility for his apparent lack of locker-room impact over the first four years of his career. Part of being a franchise cornerstone is shouldering burdens that aren’t necessarily the result of the player in question alone.
Even if Davis suddenly starts barking orders like Kevin Garnett, however, it won’t be enough to get New Orleans to the playoffs. Health fortune is arguably the single-most important factor to a team’s hopes, and the Pelicans didn’t have enough of it last year. With Jrue Holiday out indefinitely while he tends to his ailing wife and Tyreke Evans still sidelined by complications from knee surgery, it seems like the injury bug will be biting in the Bayou again throughout 2016-17.
Leadership might prove more valuable than ever to the Pelicans should that prove the case. And with encouragement from Bryant, Davis finally seems ready to provide it.