The 2017 NBA regular season had the first person since Oscar Roberson average a triple double, the closest MVP race in years, and much more! It also marked the first season in 20 years without Kobe Bryant. While the Hall-of-Famer didn’t step foot on the court, he sure did have a huge impact. Here are 3 players he trained this offseason:
Before the 2016 NBA playoffs began, Kobe Bryant said that every team needed a “lighting rod”. Someone who can create tension and push his teammates beyond their capacity, a killer. Specifically, he told Kyrie Irving that LeBron James does not have that mentality, and he needs to be the one who does this. Fast forward 3 months and Kyrie Irving hit the game winner in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Kobe clearly respects Kyrie, who was brave enough to challenge Kobe to a game of one-on-one his rookie year and decided to train him the offseason. The result? Kyrie averaged a career-high 25.2 points per game while shooting a career-high 47.2% from the field.
This year also marks the first year without Tim Duncan, and Kawhi Leonard has been carrying his team while giving great scoring performances. Like Kyrie, Leonard is putting up a career high in points this season, averaging 25.5 points per game. This has been attributed to a sudden increase in his mid-range game, knocking down a lot of his shots from between 12 – 20 feet. Sound familiar?
When asked about which NBA player resembles his mentality the most, Kobe Bryant usually always says Russell Westbrook, and he has every right too. Westbrook plays aggressive, as shown by the many facial expressions he has after a nasty dunk. His offseason training with Kobe? Westbrook averaged a triple double this season while carrying a mediocre team to the playoffs in the Western Conference. Nuff said.