Hayward was an All-Star in the 2016-17 season with Utah, finishing the campaign averaging 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He also shot 39.8 percent from 3 that season, one of the better marks in his NBA career.
“When I was done with the three days with him, I had him send me all of his workouts that he would do in the summer, his weight workouts, his track workouts, his shooting workouts,” Hayward said. “And he wrote the whole thing down in an email and sent it. And I think at the end he said, ‘I know it’s a lot of s—, but if you’re not trying to be the best, then what the f— are you playing for?’ And that was the way he ended it.”
Bryant was known for his relentless work ethic during his NBA career, and it’s clear that he tried to inspire that in Hayward.
It worked in the 2016-17 season, as Hayward played some of the best basketball of his career, and it led to him getting a massive deal from the Boston Celtics in the following offseason.
Unfortunately for Hayward, he suffered a season-ending injury the following season, and he hasn’t been able to find his All-Star form since.
In the 2023-24 season, Hayward has appeared in 25 games for the Hornets and is averaging 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.
A solid veteran, Hayward could be a player that could help a contender this season (when healthy), should the Hornets decide to move on from him. Charlotte has struggled to start this season and may want to bring in some younger assets to build around LaMelo Ball.
Bryant, who played his entire career with the Lakers, was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a player. The Lakers legend, who unfortunately passed away in January 2020, was a five-time champion in his NBA career, winning the NBA Finals MVP award two times.
It’s clear that Hayward wanted to seek out Bryant’s advice to make himself a better player, and the Lakers legend certainly didn’t hold back to push Hayward to be better.