Kobe Bryant is a mentor to Kyrie Irving. Last year, after the Cavs won Game Seven of the NBA Finals, Kyrie FaceTimed Kobe from the team’s locker room. It’s useful for Irving to consult one of the NBA’s greats.
Kobe also has experience in one particular area that relates directly to Irving: dealing with a co-superstar. Kobe spent much of his career with Shaquille O’Neal together on the Lakers. They truly were two of the best players in the NBA, as are Kyrie and LeBron James.
Though Shaq and Kobe have since made up, their Lakers era didn’t end very harmoniously. Surely Kobe has learned a few things from that experience—wisdom he can now pass along to Irving.
“It’s a tough balance,” Kyrie told ESPN. “Because everyone knows, Shaq was really dominant and [had] a lot of the individual accolades…unbelievable. And that’s who he was. And Kobe was just consistently working on his game and consistently trying to prove everyone all the time. And you got to commend somebody for that. That just shows the true testament of their will and what they’re willing to do and what they’re willing to sacrifice, but I know I don’t want to look back and say that I let my selfishness get in the way of us winning championships, because we have unbelievable talent on this team and unbelievable players, and so I don’t want to ever take that for granted.
“Whenever that time comes and it’s my time to be the leader of the franchise, then I’ll be well-prepared. But for now, I’m cool with just being—I’m very, very cool with being—a great guy on a great team.”
Kyrie recently turned 25, and LeBron, 32, looks like he still has another decade in the tank. Depending on how this Finals and next year shake out—LeBron could opt out of his contract after next year—these two may end up spending much of their careers together.
It’ll be interesting to see if their relationship always remains as harmonious as it has been so far. It seems like Kyrie has the right perspective on what that will require.