How D’Angelo Russell Thinks He ‘Relates’ To Kobe Bryant’s Mental Toughness

Kobe Bryant, D'Angelo Russell
Getty Image

D’Angelo Russell will have plenty on his plate during his rookie campaign with the Los Angeles Lakers. He’ll have to deal with all the typical rookie adjustments, like learning complex NBA systems and playing against grown men, who make a living playing basketball, rather than students who do it while attending school on the side (or pretending to). The on-court stuff will be quite a grind since the Laker backcourt is crowded with viable NBA role players, Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams, Kobe Bryant, and yes, Nick Young. Although Russell is the number two overall pick, he may struggle to find a spot in Byron Scott’s rotation.

But off the court will see just as many changes. Russell has to carry the expectations of being an heir — of sorts — to Kobe Bryant. It may not be fair to him, but Laker fans have piled many of their hopes and dreams onto the former Ohio State point guard. They filled the gyms at Las Vegas Summer League just to catch a glimpse of the rookie finally in action for the purple and gold.

High expectations bring about a lot of pressure. When he tossed the first pitch at Dodger stadium recently, he talked about what it was like handling that stress. More specifically, Russell noted in an interview with LakerNation.com’s Serena Winters that he looks to Kobe Bryant for guidance because of their similar mental makeup.

“Pressure is something you’ve got to get over, with anything. You’ve got to prepare for it.” Russell said in an interview with LakersNation.com. “Like with me having this first pitch. Everything is pressure and how you handle it…

“I always preach, I didn’t get here from being the most athletic guy, the fastest guy, the tallest guy, or the strongest, I got here from my mind…

“That’s something when I watch Kobe interviews or listen to Kobe talk, he’s mentally on another level, when I listen to him, I relate to that.”

Russell is willing to wear a heavy crown, but Kobe Bryant’s pathological will to win is a pretty lofty standard to emulate. Still, he seems to have the correct approach to handling the pressure — at least so far. His rookie campaign, and subsequent career, should be quite the ride in Los Angeles.

(Via Laker Nation)