ESPN announcer Mark Jones has been telling the story on-air recently of how Kobe Bryant taught Julius Randle to immediately go seek out a gym and get up shots whenever the team plane lands in a new city — regardless of the time or place, get up shots before going to the hotel. Randle took that advice to heart, and now a number of the other Knicks are following his lead.
Randle went on the Woj Pod with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN this week and opened up about his relationship with Kobe.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 23, 2021
“Honestly, I think about him every day. And it’s crazy that you mention that because I was talking to one of my teammates yesterday and he was like ‘bro, Ko probably would’ve come to the game here,’ and I’m like ‘yea he probably would’ve.’ And I was talking to my wife yesterday about it, and I was like, ‘man, this is kind of surreal,’ because just the journey throughout my career and how everything’s going right now, for me, I know, just the relationship I had with him, he would be proud.
“But yea man, it’s tough because I would love for him to be able to see it. For me personally, I would love to be able to just, even throughout the course of last season, the ups and downs, and throughout this season, to be able to pick up the phone, text him, call him, and get advice or just talk. You take those things for granted a little bit, and for me, I think about it all the time. I literally think about him every day.”
Kobe was an inspiration for many of the younger players in the league, but Randle got the chance to play next to him for two years before Bryant retired. Randle took advantage of that time, soaking up Kobe’s lessons (not all the young Lakers did).
Randle, averaging 23.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 6.1 assists a game — with dramatically improved 3-point shooting (41%) and playmaking — is the frontrunner for Most Improved Player and could make an All-NBA team this season. Randle deserves the credit for putting in the work to get his game to this level, but he had a good role model when he first got in the league.