However, after tearing his Achilles in 2013, Bryant knew he had to start focusing on his post-career plans. The five-time champion started meeting with different business people to grow his portfolio, and he had a successful media empire before tragically passing away in 2020 in a devastating helicopter crash.
During his final years in the NBA, Bryant tried to mentor the youngsters on the Lakers. One player, who is now an All-Star, failed to grasp many of Bryant’s teachings at first, but he has since learned what the Black Mamba was trying to teach him.
Kobe Bryant to D’Angelo Russell: “Guys go out and party in every city, I’m meeting with the CEO of Apple”
D’Angelo Russell was a rookie during Bryant’s final season in the NBA in 2015-16. According to author Jake Fischer, whose new book Built to Lose: How the NBA’s Tanking Era Changed the League Forever is on sale, Russell often hung out with one of Bryant’s private security guards on the road since he was trying to be around the Lakers icon as much as possible.
One night in Houston, Bryant returned back to his room after meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook in the hotel lobby. He taught Russell a valuable lesson that many young players hear from their vets but don’t take seriously.
“Guys go out and party in every city,” Bryant told Russell, via an excerpt from Fischer’s book (h/t SB Nation’s Silver Screen and Roll). “I’m meeting with the CEO of Apple. Think about what you want to do when you’re done playing and work on it now, so when the basketball’s done for you, you’ve already built a brand.”
After Bryant retired, he already had his life planned out since he prepared for retirement while he was still playing. That was the message he was trying to get Russell to understand. The two-time Finals MVP was enjoying life to the fullest before tragically dying, which made his death that more catastrophic.
Kobe Bryant had multimedia empire and coached his daugther
Bryant’s multimedia empire was headlined by The Punies podcast, which shared important life lessons on how to play with joy and limitless imagination. The 18-time All-Star also wrote books and coached his daughter’s AAU basketball team after hanging up his jersey.
With the Lakers, Bryant won five championships, two Finals MVPs, and one regular-season MVP. He added another trophy in 2018 when he won the Oscar for best animated short film. Bryant took home the award for his five-and-a-half-minute short film called “Dear Basketball.”
Russell only played two years with the Lakers before getting traded to the Brooklyn Nets. He’s also played for the Golden State Warriors and is currently on the Minnesota Timberwolves. It took the talented lefty time to become a professional in the NBA, but he’s now using the advice he received from Bryant all the way back in 2016.
D’Angelo Russell: “I figured out how to be a f–king professional”
In June 2020, Russell sat down with Ben Stinar of The Big Lead and talked about his maturity, both on and off the court. The All-Star now takes care of his body more and is paying attention to essential things like investments, something Bryant would undoubtedly be proud of.
“I figured out how to be a f–king professional,” Russell said. “Be all about my body, be all about my diet, be all about my recovery. I took advantage of Steph Curry’s mind as far as his approach to the game. On the court, off the court investments. How he worked his body, just little things like that. Draymond [Green] the same way, I picked Steve Kerr’s brain about film and things, so I took advantage of everything.”
Bryant may no longer be with us, but his legacy and life lessons will always be with players such as Russell, who grew up idolizing him.