Kobe Bryant has his hand in a lot of things since retiring from the NBA after last season.
Including, well, the NBA.
We already know that Isaiah Thomas and Kobe have been chatting on the regular since the playoffs started. But he revealed to ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan that the player he affectionately termed “Mighty IT” isn’t the only star who’s seeking his advice. There are a slew of other big names as well, from James Harden and Russell Westbrook, to Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward:
Bryant confirms he has had “many conversations” during the playoffs with Thomas, but says the Celtics star is just one of many current NBA stars who have reached out to him for advice.
Bryant says he also talks regularly with Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, MVP candidates James Harden and Russell Westbrook, and Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward, whom Bryant spent three days training with in Orange County last summer.
“I’m around for all the guys,” Bryant tells ESPN.com. “Anybody can reach out. It’s an open book.”
Could you imagine Kobe doing this, saying this, five or seven years ago? Not at all. And it’s pretty cool.
The cache Kobe carries cannot be overstated. He has an iffy relationship with statistics, but players and pundits alike, if nothing else, appreciate his drive, his competitive edge—the work ethic that, by the end of his career, came to define him more than his rings or play style.
There’s no doubt current players are seeking emotional advice from Bean. As we wait to find out who will take the NBA title, this kind of advice in the mentally exhausting playoff run can be a difference maker. But even his game remains something that’s held in high esteem. Though his long-two-heavy style isn’t conducive to today’s NBA, his vast array of drives, post moves, fakes, etc. can be adapted to suit the contemporary style.
And, hell, maybe these conversations don’t have anything to do with any of this. Maybe these players are just star struck—in awe of getting the opportunity to break bread with someone most of them, if not all of them, grew up idolizing. At any rate, regardless of what’s happening, Kobe remains connected to the game and its players, and it’s not all that surprising.
Someone like him was never going to quit cold turkey, after all.