It’s easy to look at Anthony Davis now, fresh off a dominant championship run and say he was anything guaranteed. Questions about his impact, his injury history, and whether his defensive reputation was overrated followed the big man for years before his trade to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Still, the Lakers, under the guidance of vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, swung a blockbuster trade to get the star, giving up a treasure of young players (some with star potential, themselves) and draft picks. It turns out, they might have Kobe Bryant to thank for that.
In a wide-ranging feature on Davis, Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated reveals that the Lakers icon called up Pelinka, his former agent, after an offseason workout with the big man:
“Bryant, who in retirement would often share his wisdom with select up-and-coming stars in offseason training sessions, had devised a regimen for working with Davis. When they met in Los Angeles that summer, Kobe wasted no time. “I’m pretty sure he watched some tape before I got there, because he had a little plan of what he wanted to do,” says Davis. Bryant ran AD through a battery of drills, working on ballhandling, teaching his signature turnaround fadeaway and, most notably, improving Davis’s footwork in the post. After Kobe barked orders, the two would then break down film together.
Those summer sessions left an indelible impression on Bryant. He had never put much effort into recruiting big names to Los Angeles during his 20-year playing career, which ended in 2016. But not long after the minicamp, Kobe picked up the phone and called the godfather of his daughter Gianna—his former agent and current general manager of the Lakers, Rob Pelinka. “Hey, you know I don’t give you GM advice,” Bryant said. “But if you ever get a chance to get this guy, he is the avatar of what you want. His level of footwork, his dexterity, his mastery of the details of the game. Guys like this are generational players.”
Giving 20 years of iconic excellence, five championships, and then potentially being the catalyst behind the next great Lakers duo is a pretty damn great legacy for Bryant to leave behind in Los Angeles.