Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant has never been the most patient person. He turned pro right out of high school and spent his entire career pushing himself to be his absolute best. Perhaps more than any athlete before him, Bryant got the most out of his God-given talent.
However, he was also on a team that had something to fight for from day one. When Bryant was traded to the Lakers after being drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, he joined a young roster that needed to develop, but also had a collection of talent that could make noise immediately.
It’s in contrast to the current Lakers team, but there are some similarities. And one of them is a need for patience with the team, Bryant explained during the “Connected With…” episode that aired on Spectrum SportsNet:
“Even when Shaq and I first came here, there was still patience. Shaq still had to grow up, he was extremely young. I still had to grow up. We had a lot of the pieces around that had to grow up. Now, it seemed like it was easier then, because it seemed like we were a contender right off the bat. Van Exel, Eddie Jones and Shaq. But that wasn’t the reality. It took us years to get there. The only difference was we were a contending team. Never won anything, but we were a contending team. This team here is not a contending team, they haven’t won anything. It’s the same damn thing. So, patience has to be required. That day will come. These young players will grow, and then everybody will look up and marvel at the amount of talent we have.”
Bryant’s preaching of patience aligns with the message delivered from Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, general manager Rob Pelinka and head coach Luke Walton. While there’s a desire to improve, it comes with an understanding of it being a process.
However, Bryant’s message changed quickly when discussing whether the players themselves, like Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, can be patient:
“No, not for [Ball]. He needs to get better now. Kuzma, better now. Randle, better now. Players, you want that now. We never thought, ‘OK, we’re going to win four years from now. We really thought this is our year. We’re going to get this done. We’re going to push, push, push, push, push to get better now.’ And in the process of having that impatience, you develop. If you’re just patiently going about it, you’ll never get there. For players, it’s kind of patient impatience.”
Bryant is describing the insatiable drive that he showcased over the course of his career. The young Lakers have to understand that growth will take time, but they have to attack their training as though they need to get better immediately.
It’s not an easy balance to strike, but as Bryant notes, it’s going to be critical. Organizations can, and sometimes should, be patient, as can fans. But the players themselves can’t afford that luxury, they have to stay hungry. It’s a lesson that hopefully, the rebuilding Lakers will take to heart.