Kyle Kuzma has been a sensation in his rookie season in Los Angeles. Drafted with the 27th overall pick in the NBA Draft, the Lakers forward was not expected to be much of a contributor to start his career. Since Summer League, however, Kuzma has continued to turn heads with his polished offensive game and doesn’t look to be stopping anytime soon.
It’s obviously far too soon to call Kuzma an all-time great (he can make-do with Hall of Fame expectations). But recently, the Utah product did get to meet with one for the first time and pick his brain. That legendary figure was none other than Kobe Bryant, the 20-year Lakers guard who made his mark as one of the best players in NBA history and arguably the best in the history of the franchise.
Kuzma later spoke to reporters and relayed the message that Bryant had for him over dinner, via Bill Oram of the OC Register:
“Just work,” Kuzma said. “That’s cliché, but that’s what he stands for, that’s what he values. That’s what I value. So that was really the message.”
“I want to be good,” Kuzma said before Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers. “Why not learn from one of the best? So I took that approach. Of course, it was cool. But I had a lot of questions and I was really excited just to get to know him, meet him, learn from him.”
More specifically, Kuzma declared that he had asked Kobe for advice on the next step: turning from being a good young player to a good player.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, formerly Bryant’s agent, had heard from both parties about the meeting, as well:
“He’s just really enjoyed the way Kyle’s attacked his rookie year,” Pelinka said. “The mentality he’s played with. For him to grab dinner with him, swap war stories, is invaluable. And I think Kyle was in awe by everything he heard.”
“Kyle said he heard stories he could have never imagined,” Pelinka said. “And Kobe just said Kyle’s got an edge and a spirit about him, and he’s going to be one of those alpha dog players for this team, for sure.”
The whole Kobe lore and #MambaMentality stuff definitely get overblown in the media. But there’s a ton of value for a young player like Kuzma to learn from a legend who was a great player for a prolonged amount of time. Even if the two aren’t working out together in the gym, learning about Bryant’s approach from preparation to avoiding injuries to rehab and yes even the mentality of the game, is an extremely valuable tool.
Here’s hoping Kuzma can learn from this meeting and any subsequent ones to expand his game moving forward.