Kobe Bryant has become a surprising mentor this postseason to Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas, helping Boston’s star go over film to find things he can improve on and how he can better attack the opposition during the playoffs. This has surprised many for a couple reasons. First is the Lakers-Celtics rivalry that would seem to preclude Bryant, a Laker lifer, from helping someone on Boston, and second is that not many would have expected Bryant to be a willing participant in helping out another player.
Bryant softened some in the last few years in the league, but he was long known as a fierce competitor and a player that wasn’t especially warm to young players on the Lakers if they couldn’t handle his intense personality on the court. However, there’s a reason Bryant is willing to help Thomas and why he also helped Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward over the summer.
As Bryant told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, one of the things he learned early in his career was to ask for advice from the game’s greats. That includes Michael Jordan, who Bryant idolized growing up and reached out to as a young NBA player for advice. Bryant didn’t divulge what Jordan or any of the other legends he spoke to told him as a young player, but he did offer a tremendous anecdote about why Michael Jackson — yes, the King of Pop — was the reason he started reaching out to older players.