Julius Randle opens up about most powerful lesson he learned from Kobe Bryant

Peter Dewey
6 Min Read

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle was part of the Los Angeles Lakers during the final two seasons of Kobe Bryant’s career.

In an article in The Players’ Tribune, Randle revealed the most impactful lesson he ever learned from Bryant.

“I grew up in Dallas, so I had this early-season road game against the [Dallas] Mavericks circled on my calendar,” Randle wrote. “I was excited. Excited to feel that sense of accomplishment, of being that kid from your neighborhood growing up who made it to the league.

“We flew in after a Wednesday night game, and the Mavs game wasn’t until Friday late, which meant we had an off day in Dallas. So guys were definitely going out that night. Me, I’ve got family, I’ve got a bunch of friends texting and whatnot, with this plan and that plan. Y’all have to keep in mind I’m 20 years old at this time. You can imagine where my head is at.

“So then we get off the plane, we ride to the hotel, and — ha. Wow. I will never forget this. We’re coming up on the hotel in Dallas, and Kobe turns to me and he goes, ‘Julius, what you bout to do.’

“I’m like, ‘I’m about to see my family, chill with some friends, you know. Have a night.’

“And Kobe, he just cuts me off. He’s like, ‘Nah. We’re going to the gym.’


“I mean, that right there, it’s just the power of Kobe. If anyone else in the world had said that to me, in that moment, I might have hit ’em with an eye roll and went on with my business. But when Mamba is telling you that it’s a change of plans, and you’re coming with him to the gym tonight? You don’t ask questions. You just do as you’re told.

“And of course Kobe knew we were in my hometown. Of course he knew. But that wasn’t him being a bad dude or anything. It was more like — it was him trying to use the situation to teach me a lesson. The lesson being: To get to the next level in this league, you can’t be putting in that next level of work only some of the time. Has to be all of the time. No such thing as sacrifice without sacrifice.

“That was November 2015, Kobe’s last season. And from then on, everything he showed me that night, straight up: it’s become my routine. If we’re on a road trip, as soon as we get off the plane, there you go, that’s my night — before I do anything else. I’m heading to the gym, I’m getting my shots up, I’m putting in my work.”

Randle then revealed how that lesson led to an incredible experience shortly after Bryant’s tragic passing.

“And what’s crazy is…. O.K., here’s the end of the story. So we’re in Detroit last season, on a road trip. And we fly in, I grab my bags, and like I said: it’s been my routine ever since that night in Dallas. Get off the plane, head to the gym. Get off the plane, head to the gym. Get off the plane, head to the gym. Like clockwork. Every city, though, it’s a new situation — there’s different places available. So what I’ll do is, I’ll have the team set up a spot in advance. And that way I can go straight there, however late it is, and get my workout in.

“On this particular trip, in Detroit, they had this little high school gym opened up for me. I love gyms like that — simple and old school. And I get to the building, and the guy who was there to let me in, I think he’s the athletic director of that school, we start talking a little bit. And he’s like, ‘It’s good to see you. Guys don’t really show up here to work out anymore. Matter of fact, the last guy to come in this late to shoot — man, that must have been years ago. It was Kobe.’


“I mean, just hearing him say the name….. it gave me chills.

“This was the month after Kobe had passed — and it was just one of those moments. One of those moments that stays with you. One of those moments that forces you to take a second, and feel humble about how connected everything is.”

Randle has clearly taken the Hall of Famer’s advice to heart, as he is having a career year this season.

Randle is averaging 23.1 points, 10.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game this season. He has led the Knicks to an 18-18 record and was named to his first All-Star team this season.

Bryant passed away in January of 2020 in a tragic helicopter crash. It is clear that his mentorship has impacted several players in the NBA, and Randle is just one of them.

In his Hall of Fame career, Bryant won five NBA titles, was an 18-time All-Star and two-time NBA Finals MVP.

Share This Article
Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.