NEW YORK — As Kevin Durant looks back on his time around Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, the 34-year-old comes back to one memorable piece of advice that he learned from the all-time great.
“Really just don’t be a crybaby,” Durant said Wednesday after Brooklyn’s 122-116 win over the Charlotte Hornets. “I was at that age at 23 where I thought the world revolved around me. And I know we’ve talked a lot about Kobe, he was real humble in how he approached the game, how he approached his teammates, just life in general. So I learned just from watching his movements.
“He was an example, he didn’t say much but he was an example just by how he moved and I try to emulate, like I said, him and Mike are two dudes I emulate on and off the court what they do and I know it will make me better.”
Durant’s memories of Bryant, who tragically died in a January 2020 helicopter crash, came because of a comparison made between the two basketball legends by Hornets coach Steve Clifford. The veteran NBA coach served as an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2012-13 season and got to know Durant while serving as a coaching consultant for the Nets last season.
“He’s a lot like Kobe to me,” Clifford said about Durant before Wednesday’s game. “Their makeup is different in many ways, but on the court, they’re very similar in terms of the way they work, and they’re both students of the game. When I think of Kobe I think of passion, when I think of Kevin, I think of passion. So two elite players who care deeply about the results more than they do like individual numbers.”
Durant appreciated Clifford’s words when told about them postgame.
“It’s hard to fill them shoes and be a Kobe Bryant,” Durant said. “But Kob is somebody I’ve been around and still study to this day. And basically I just try to copy everything he does, same with Michael Jordan. Those two guys just set the tone for everything you want to be as a basketball player. So I just simply try to copy them as much as I can.”
Kyrie Irving, who developed a close relationship with Bryant prior to his death, also sees the similarities.
“I think if you look at people that want greatness, [they] will sacrifice time with their families, their friends, and do everything possible in order to give everything they have to what they love to do, to their craft,” Irving said. “They have similarities. And I don’t think it’s just Kob and KD, I just think when you see greatness and you wonder how people continue to do it year after year, you have to look at the hours that are put in, the way that they prepare, and how serious they take what they do.
“And they’re very competitive, Kobe and KD. Obviously with Kob transitioning in the last few years, he would definitely be giving us some gems to continue on, and you can tell that K got a lot of advice from him, and watched him a lot.”