Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving spent the early years of his NBA career under the tutelage of late Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Irving was one of Bryant’s mentees in the last days of his NBA career. The origin of their relationship dates back to the Nets star’s rookie year when he challenged the late Hall of Famer to a game of one-on-one during a Team USA practice. From that moment, Bryant took Kyrie under his wing.
When Kyrie plays, you can see that he spent time under Kobe’s tutelage. From the way he shoots the ball to his supreme confidence on the court, the influence Bryant had on Irving’s game is obvious. Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy says that the only thing that separates Kyrie and the late Hall of Famer, is his height.
“If Kyrie was 6’6, you would see Kobe mirrored back at you,” Handy said via Basketball Forever’s Nick Jungfer.
The latest Nets news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Nets newsletter here!
Kyrie Calls Kobe Bryant the GOAT
When the greatest players of all time are discussed the names that usually come up are LeBron James and Michael Jordan. But as a player who spent a lot of time learning from Kobe, Irving says there is no doubt that Bryant is the greatest player ever.
“When I say [Kobe is] the greatest to play this game, it doesn’t mean I’m knocking anybody else, all right? F***, let me finish my story,“ Irving said during a Twitch live stream session on May 10 via @pinatafarms on Twitter.
“The greatest to play this game to me! I don’t give a f*** what you talking about. I don’t care about your stats.”
Phil Handy Compares Kyrie to Kawhi Leonard
Handy and Kyrie have a storied history together. He was Irving’s assistant coach on the Cavaliers staff when they overcame a historic 3-1 deficit to win the NBA title against the Golden State Warriors in 2016. Thus, the Lakers assistant is familiar with the mannerisms of the Nets star.
For the most part, Irving has remained silent during this current ordeal with the Nets. Handy says that Kyrie has always been private and likens his demeanor to Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard.
“Ky is one of those dudes that is very private. He’s very private and his circle is very small and he’s not a guy that really extends himself a lot to people that he doesn’t know. Kind of like Kawhi,” Handy told Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of Bally Sports in September.
“Until you actually get to know Kyrie, you’re going to get a lot of speculation. He’s going to say some stuff and certain things, but people don’t understand maybe what’s the context behind it or where he’s coming from.
So, I always say a lot of times athletes, in general, are just in the spotlight where you just hear sound bites or you might see this or hear this, but people don’t really know the kid. And so, until you actually get to know Kyrie, I tell people all the time that if you don’t know someone, you probably shouldn’t speak on him.”
All signs point to Kyrie and Kevin Durant being on the Nets’ roster next season. They could be among the top competitors for the NBA title.