CJ McCollum, Who Was Scared of Meeting Kobe Bryant, Reflects on Lakers Legend’s Impact on Him

Published 03/24/2022, 4:30 PM EDT

Kobe Bryant is one of the NBA’s most impeccable stars. Game on the line with the clock winding down, there was only one person who you’d give the ball to. It was Kobe. For 20 years, Bryant was a part of the ‘Purple and Gold’ where he won 5 titles, an MVP award, and scored 81 points in a single game. Moreover, he was inducted into the Hall-Of-Fame and was included in the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.

Apart from being a Laker and NBA great, Kobe was an inspiration to many all over the world. One person who was inspired by Bryant is New Orleans Pelicans star, CJ McCollum. Despite being scared to meet Kobe, McCollum shed light on how the Lakers’ legend had an impact on him.

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CJ McCollum on Kobe Bryant

In a recent episode of the ‘Knuckleheads’ podcast, CJ McCollum revealed how Kobe inspired him.

“I watched a lot of Kobe. Like interviews, everything,” said McCollum.

“I’ve seen the air balls right? Like, I wanted to watch guys that fail before they succeeded. I wanted to see how they handled it and what type of work they put in to be successful,” he added.

Clearly, McCollum seems to be inspired by Kobe. He closely observed Kobe’s work ethic. Coming out of high school, Bryant did not have a solid rookie season. As McCollum mentioned, there was a game when Kobe shot multiple airballs in a playoff game.

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However, the way Kobe grew and worked on his weaknesses had a strong impact on McCollum.

CJ McCollum’s Breakout Season

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As Portland’s star, LaMarcus Aldridge, left the franchise, Damian Lillard needed a strong player to stand by his side. This was when the Trail Blazers decided to give CJ McCollum more minutes. And what a season McCollum had! Despite being underdogs, McCollum’s partnership with Lillard propelled the Trail Blazers to the Eastern Conference Semifinals that season.

CJ McCollum – 2014-15 Season vs 2015-16 Season (Stats Include Regular Seasons and Playoffs)

Clearly, McCollum had big shoes to fill. But he did in style. He had a boost in his scoring and formed a deadly partnership with Damian Lillard. Moreover, his name became widely known across the NBA. Additionally, McCollum’s improvement led him to receive the Most Improved Player of the Year Award that season. Clearly, the Trail Blazers realized that they had a prolific player on their roster.

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What is your favorite memory of Kobe Bryant? Do you think Pelicans can make the play-in tournament with CJ in the squad? Let us know in the comments!

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Sameer Prasad Koppolu

273 articles

Sameer is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. Having graduated from Manipal Institute of Technology, he has always had a keen interest in basketball and the numbers behind the game. With a goal to become a Sports Performance Analyst for a professional sports team, Sameer brings insights backed by data.

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