Last week, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving admitted that along with celebrating, one of the first things he did after hitting "The Shot" and winning the 2016 NBA title was FaceTime former Los Angeles Lakers and NBA great Kobe Bryant. On Tuesday, the young Cavs star went even more in depth with NBC Sports' Kurt Helin on why he has always leaned on Bryant for not only advice on not only the game, but his mental approach toward the game as well, especially in the playoffs.
“In terms of a mental approach, as well as some technical stuff about the game, I’ll always go to Kobe, because he’s as polished as they come. If you’re talking about [someone] who literally just physically imposed himself on the game every single day, and that mindset, oh I definitely going to talk Kobe."
Why didn't he lean on two of his teammates - LeBron James and James Jones - who have made six consecutive Finals appearances, you ask? Because, unlike James and Jones, Bryant was Irving's idol ever since he was a kid. Being able to talk to his idol and lean on him for advice meant something special for the 24-year-old.
“I never got a chance to play with Kobe, I always watched from the outside like everyone else did — and I’ve been watching Kobe for however long. I mean, me and my dad used to watch Lakers games and I was just specifically watching his footwork. I’m just studying that dude constantly, constantly, constantly. And once he became a mentor of mine, it was just great.”
While Irving leaned on his idol, he also considers James as one of his mentors as well. Not only because they are teammates, but because he has tremendous leadership skills. In fact, The Cavs guard likes being able to get advice from both Bryant and his teammate because while they are both tremendous leaders, they have completely different personalities. They both provide their own perspective on not only the game, but also in different ways of helping Irving become better and improve his skills.
“I’m very, very thankful to have those two guys in my life in terms of my development because it’s just been great … A lot of things that I feel separates (Kobe and I), from an individual standpoint, is very similar. I’m thankful that I have that from both of them, LeBron and Kobe, because they are two totally different guys, and they bring so much to the team, and so much as individuals, I just want to pick their brains on everything.”
For Irving, he can never have too much advice from players like James and Bryant. If he continues to develop as he heads into his prime while also getting help from those two, the NBA better watch out because they have not even come close to seeing the best out of No. 2 yet.