Being in the rare position of having tutored both LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy indicated in a new interview that one personality trait that was identical in each was his dedication to the game.
Handy spoke with David Aldridge of The Athletic and pointed out that James and Bryant both approached the game from a physical and mental standpoint, with their confidence being something that set them apart.
“Everybody knows Kob and ‘Bron are different guys, personality-wise,” Handy said. “But their work ethic, and their approach to the game, is identical. The way they study their opponents. The way that they break down their own games. The way that they take care of their bodies off the floor. Just the time spent in terms of wanting to be at the top and wanting to compete, they’re exactly the same in that regard. There are so many similarities in just their Alpha mentality, their competitive spirit, and then their confidence.
“Like, people always question ‘Bron sometimes for whatever decisions he makes, but he’s always been a guy that’s tried to make the right basketball play. (But) being confident? His confidence? His, being around him and Kob, there’s no lack of confidence from either one of those dudes, on anything they can’t do on the floor.”
Handy served as the Lakers player development coach from 2011 to 2013, where he came into close contact with Bryant, who had long since established his legendary status before Handy arrived.
Despite that stature, Bryant remained intent on driving himself to maintain his incredible talent and never rested on the fact that he’d led the Lakers to five NBA titles.
After Handy moved on to serve as an assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he saw James lead the Cavaliers to four consecutive appearances in the finals. In addition, James’ stirring performance in the 2016 finals helped forge a record-setting comeback and helped James win Finals MVP honors.
Handy and James reunited this past season, with the end result being that James’ determination to bounce back after an injury-plagued season resulted in the 17th league title for the Lakers.
Having dismissed rumors that he would be leaving for another team, Handy will again soon be focused on working with James, Sadly, in the case of Bryant, Handy will have to rely on his memories of the departed legend.