Kobe Bryant laughs with friends before a 2009 NBA Finals game (Nathaniel S. Butler/ Getty).
There are few players in NBA history with the work ethic of Kobe Bryant, which is both why he's managed to stay at an All-Star level for so many seasons and why he managed to fulfill has massive potential in the first place. Whenever Kobe has the opportunity to improve his game, he takes it. He's also fanatically competitive and serious about his job.
It makes sense, then, that Bryant would have been a major influence on the generation of stars that followed his ascendance. Kobe, for one, is willing to credit himself for that impact. From Dave McMenamin for ESPNLosAngeles.com (via SLAM):
"Just by observation of some of the younger players that I face now, they wind up having a similar mentality that I had," Bryant said when asked how he has changed the sport during his time as a pro. "Because growing up, they were obviously watching me when I was 21, 22 years old and just kind of by any means necessary get things done, not afraid of the big moment and extremely competitive. They all have these work ethics now and most of them get up at five in the morning to train like I do. It's pretty cool."
Kobe has never been shy about talking up his accomplishments, so we shouldn't be terribly surprised that he has acknowledged his influence on the current crop of NBA stars younger than 30. What's most notable about these comments is that they don't even come across as particularly arrogant. Really, they're more like fact.
Bryant first arrived on the scene as a brash youngster who attended to his high school prom with Brandy Norwood and released a singularly terrible album. But that attitude quickly gave way to a more serious approach dependent on all-out effort and single-minded focus. If Kobe (and many failed superstars of the same era) initially tried to be like Michael Jordan by mimicking his global brand, then he corrected course by fixating on the same intense competitiveness that drove His Airness.
It's easy to see a similar approach today in players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Yes, those guys don't shy away from courting celebrity, but at a basic level they try to present themselves as professionals. While Jordan always emphasized that part of his game by winning, no one has fetishized determination quite like Kobe. He showed that it could be replicated. While he hasn't been the only influence on his younger peers, he sure as heck gave them one way to get to where they are today.Fantasy advice from the Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Minute:
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