How Kobe Bryant HELPED Giannis Antetokounmpo Become An NBA MVP (Ft. Workouts, Sad Boi Days)
Giannis Antetokounmpo is an NBA MVP, but Kobe Bryant helped him be just that.
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We gotta go back to Giannis’s rookie year in the 2013-2014 season. Here’s an 18 year old complete prospect from Greece at the 15th pick. He was 6’9” and the most mysterious player in the draft. Giannis couldn’t do much, just run out, catch lobs, and finish, but he knew that himself. That meant he had to outwork everyone, he had to develop the fundamentals that everyone else had. See here is when he really didn’t have any skill, maybe Harden was talking about 2013 Giannis.
So apparently one of the assistant coaches thought that Giannis wasn’t working hard enough. Instead of getting mad, he started crying. He said “You can tell me I’m not doing the right things. But you cannot tell me this. I won’t accept it.”
Through the seasons, Giannis’s work ethic was becoming legendary. His teammates would start saying that his work ethic is really like Kobe and Jordan. The 2015-16 season was special. Yeah it’s the Cavs coming back from 3-1, it’s Curry’s unanimous MVP season in which he straight up destroyed the league, but it was also Kobe Bryant’s last year. Till that point, Giannis and Kobe hadn’t shared a court together. Kobe had been injured each time the Bucks played the Lakers, but this time, this season, they would play twice.
Apparently, Giannis was too scared to talk to Kobe. His assistant coach tried to get Giannis to go over to Kobe, but in his terms, he just wasn’t “used” to him yet. He had gotten used to Kevin Durant and LeBron, but Kobe was still this legend in his mind. On February 22, 2016, Giannis was transitioning to a point guard. This would be the last time Giannis would face off against Kobe and he put on a show. He had a triple double scoring 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists along with a win. And after the game the two embraced. The two would meet in the locker rooms after so Giannis’s family could meet Kobe and so that they could continue talking. He obviously told Giannis to keep working, that sometimes players take a night off, but the great players don’t take a single day off. He told him that summer time was the most important to improve, especially when you have to add new parts to the game. The thing that stuck with Giannis was just how many shots Kobe takes. Giannis shot about 500 shots a day, Kobe would take 1000. Giannis said that he would have to take 1001 shots a day to surpass him.
That was right before his breakout season next year in which he became an All-Star and the most improved player. During the 2017 Summer, Kobe was sending out challenges to people as part of a Nike Mamba Mentality promotional campaign. Giannis didn’t get one so he asked for one on twitter and Kobe replied with MVP. That just speaks to the volumes of potential Kobe saw in Giannis. In February of 2018, Giannis said he wanted to work with Kobe and pick his brain. Giannis turned down offers to work with LeBron and KD because he didn’t want to work with other current NBA stars and be buddy-buddy with his competition. And eventually in the summer of 2018, Giannis and Kobe would do a workout together. Giannis really sometimes is like a kid and that’s something he took from Kobe. Kobe wanted Giannis to ask as many questions as possible, to not be limited in thought.
Kobe also told him to perfect moves, to make sure that whatever he does, even if it’s not a whole variety, is perfect so you can rely on that in the game, something that Giannis took to heart. Again, Giannis has skill.
Am I saying that Kobe is the sole reason that Giannis is the player he is today? Heck no, Giannis has had this work ethic, this drive that already drew comparisons, but after every sort of advice session Giannis had with Kobe, he took another step mentally. Kobe had players like Jordan, Jerry West, Bill Russell to turn to not only figure out certain skills, but figure out mental aspects of the game, the intangibles.
Giannis would become the MVP in 2019, completing the challenge that Kobe had laid out for him. This relationship isn’t really talked about as much as Kobe and Kyrie or even Kobe and Wiggins, but it definitely had an impact on Giannis and his outlook of the game. Giannis didn’t just work hard, he worked smartly, you can feel the Mamba Mentality when you watch Giannis play, so yeah Kobe helped Giannis become the player he is today and that is amazing. But what do you think? Should Giannis win his second MVP? Who are other players with the Mamba mentality?