Former Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant remains one of the NBA’s greatest talents behind his illustrious 20-year career. It led Bryant to adopt a stern mental approach to the game, allowing him to take his skill to tremendous heights. However, it also created harsh learning lessons for his teammates, including one that involved him forcing them to take off his Nike shoes.
Kobe Bryant’s final three seasons plagued by injuries and Lakers’ shortcomings
Bryant‘s 20-year NBA career included plenty of sustained success and legacy-defining moments.
However, the last three years didn’t unfold as hoped as the Lakers struggled to build a winning team around the five-time NBA champion. Los Angeles failed to win more than 30 games in those campaigns, including recording a franchise-worst 17-65 record in Bryant’s last year in the 2015-16 season.
After he tore his Achilles tendon, he struggled to recapture his elite form while nagging injuries plagued him. Bryant played in only six games in the 2013-14 season due to a lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee. The next year, he suffered a torn rotator cuff that cut his 19th campaign short after 35 games.
In Bryant’s final season, he played in 66 games, but the team was far from a playoff contender. Despite the team’s constant shortcomings, it didn’t deter him from berating his teammates during a blowout loss.
Kobe Bryant once angrily forced his teammates throw away his shoes at Halftime: ‘Every trip down the court, I touch the basketball’
Over the last three seasons of Bryant‘s career, he experienced difficulty finding consistent success in Los Angeles.
The Lakers fell well short of the playoffs while he struggled to stay on the court due to nagging injuries. Despite that, it didn’t dissuade him from pushing to get the most out of his teammates.
One of his former teammates, Lou Williams, recollected one of those experiences during his brief tenure in Los Angeles. During an appearance on “WYD? with Ros Gold-Onwude,” Williams voiced after being blown out in the first half of a regular-season game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Bryant at halftime made all of his teammates take off their Kobe Nike shoes while delivering a stern message.
“We were in Portland and we got blown out,” Williams recounted. “He wasn’t very happy about us getting blown out. He said, ‘From now on out, every trip down the court, I touch the basketball.’ He told the whole team. He said, ‘I touch the basketball every time down the court, and y’all are gonna learn what it’s like to play with Kobe F’in Bean Bryant.’
“And (he had) a straight look on his face. He wasn’t joking. ‘From now on out, the rest of the season, I touch the ball every time down the court.’”
Although it’s an unusual request, Bryant certainly commanded tremendous respect from his teammates, especially if they were all wearing a pair of his Nike basketball shoes. The former Lakers great reached a breaking point and simply wanted to teach his teammates a harsh lesson.
Further fuels Kobe Bryant’s legacy
Bryant didn’t experience sustained success over the final three years of his career, but it doesn’t diminish his legacy.
The former Lakers great poured out every ounce of talent out of himself behind his hard work and dedication. It created the Mamba Mentality mindset that fueled his passion for the game and moments like those Williams described falling in path with what wasn’t acceptable to Bryant’s standards.
He established himself as an all-time great that significantly impacted the generations of NBA talent that followed him. If anything, Williams’ story further ingrains why Bryant commanded tremendous respect and admiration.