Kobe Bryant has been nostalgic and reflective during his retirement tour this season, and has been perhaps more willing to open up when facing the media than he has in the past.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday after he played through a knee injury to give the fans in Memphis what they came to see, the 20-year NBA veteran was asked what advice he'd give himself as a rookie. And he had a very interesting response.
"It's hard to tell somebody -- a player at that age -- to understand compassion and empathy, but that would be my advice," Bryant said, via ESPN.com. "It tends to come with time."
Why those two things, specifically?
"Well, because that's the biggest thing about being a leader, I think, and winning a championship is understanding how to put yourself in other people's shoes," he said. "That's really the most important thing. It's not necessarily the individual skill you possess. It's about understanding others and what they may be going through.
"And then, in turn, when you understand that, you can communicate with them a little bit better and bring out the best in them. Bringing out the best in people isn't passing them the ball and giving them open shots. It's about how to connect with them, how to communicate with them so that they can navigate through whatever issues they may be facing. That's a very, very hard thing to do."
Bryant, of course, has struggled to connect on a personal level with teammates in the past. His infamous feud with Shaquille O'Neal caused the Lakers to break up what could have been a dynasty, and the stories of his behind-the-scenes interactions may have scared away potential free agents from signing in Los Angeles.
At this late stage of his career, Bryant seems to have matured to the point where he finally realizes it.
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