Kobe Bryant‘s ability as a basketball player is going to make him a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in the near future, but his best attribute might have been his mind for the game. Bryant was famously hyper-competitive, a trait that manifested itself off the court through his dedication to meticulously breaking down film.
This has led to Bryant’s ability to see things and break them down as good as anyone, which appealed to Isaiah Thomas when the now-Laker guard was a member of the Boston Celtics. The Lakers’ team site wrote a story about the bond between the pair, which included Thomas receiving mentoring from the Academy Award-winning shooting guard.
Thomas reached out to Bryant before a Celtics-Lakers game, and Bean agreed to go through an hour of film study. As Thomas tells it, the experience helped make him a better basketball player, especially when Boston went through a postseason series with the Washington Wizards.
Bryant advised that Thomas watch film on Stephen Curry, including studying how the Golden State point guard would set screens to open up scoring opportunities for himself and others.
Thomas soared in that series, averaging 27.4 points, 7.1 assists and 3.6 3-pointers.
“It was crazy, because I never even thought about basketball like that,” Thomas said. “And then when I started to think like that, I would see it before it happened in the game and I would think, ‘Damn, Kobe really just told me that last night.’”
Bryant has said that he’s completely stopped playing basketball since he retired, but as stories like this and his upcoming television show through ESPN illustrate, his mind for the game is still as sharp as ever.