During a recent podcast, former New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman recalled that a Kobe Bryant talk to his team showed off the ferocious will to win that helped define the basketball icon.
Edelman spoke with co-host Sam Morril during their “Games With Names” podcast and recounted Bryant’s talk to the Patriots that still resonates with him.
“We’d always have legendary people or head coaches or business leaders,” Edelman said. “They’d come in and speak to the whole team in like the offseason. Speaking of this, Kobe came and spoke to us. He was one of the most interesting humans I’ve ever heard in that climate. He was so interesting, and like his attention to detail and his question asking, like he’d ask us questions so then he could take it where he was going next.
“He wasn’t playing anymore, but I mean, you could just tell that guy was a fierce f—— winner. Just eye of the tiger. He’ll f—— rip your heart out and would do it over and over and over and over again just to show you you’re not better than him. And you felt that when he spoke. One of the coolest people that came and talked to us before a season.”
Exactly when the conversation took place is unclear, though Bryant last played for the Lakers in 2016. Edelman’s final season with the Patriots was the 2020 campaign.
A Different Path
Like Bryant, Edelman spent his entire career with the same team. However, unlike Bryant, who was drafted in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft, Edelman was a seventh-round choice of the Patriots in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Even before Bryant’s speech, Edelman’s ability to reach and exceed his potential was evident. During his 11 seasons as an NFL wide receiver, Edelman caught 620 passes for 36 touchdowns.
During the postseason, Edelman thrived by catching 118 passes for 1,442 yards and five touchdowns.
On three different occasions, Edelman was part of a Patriots team that captured a Super Bowl title. The pinnacle of those championships for Edelman came in Super Bowl LIII in February 2019 when he was named Super Bowl MVP.
In that 2019 performance, Edelman caught 10 passes for 141 yards.
Missing football. Decided to sequence together all of Julian Edelman's touches in Super Bowl 53: 11 touches, 149 yards, and a Super Bowl MVP. Peters and Talib were in a blender all night.
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) July 23, 2020
Less than one year later, Bryant was tragically killed in a helicopter crash, an event that shocked the entire sporting world. Edelman was undoubtedly one of those people who was devastated over the news, considering how reverently he spoke about Bryant.
When it came to titles, Bryant certainly knew the arduous path it took to achieve that goal. The wisdom and passion he used to be a key part of five Lakers titles help explain why the Patriots opted to have him speak to the team.
Bryant no longer has the opportunity to offer such insight, but it’s clear that he provided the framework for those who heard him speak to carry on a similar message. Edelman could be one of those individuals, considering the challenges that he overcame to make an impact in pro football.