Isiah Thomas Shares How the Late Paul Westpal Made Him Guard Kobe Bryant

Published 01/03/2021, 10:10 AM EST


Kobe Bryant has had a profound impact on the entire basketball world. However, a lot of the players in the league today got a chance to develop individual relationships with him. This especially includes a lot of the emerging guards from the time Kobe retired, but still got to play against. This includes Damian Lillard, Devin Booker, and former All-NBA first-team guard, Isiah Thomas.

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Thomas is one of the smallest players in the league today, standing at 5’8″. While IT is still looking to get on a team for this season, he was truly elite before his injuries slowed him down. He was also a tenacious defender that many players had a hard time navigating around because of size and speed.

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While with the Sacramento Kings, IT was coached by Paul Westphal, who passed away yesterday. Thomas shared a story that honored two late greats in Kobe and Westphal. Thomas sharing this story reinforces how many players were afraid to be up against Kobe in a one-on-one matchup.

Kobe Bryant: Relationship with Isiah Thomas

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Kobe Bryant and Isiah Thomas were quite close, as ‘Bean’ had always appreciated other players with a tough attitude. Thomas is the definition of a player ‘with a dog in him’. He had to hustle very hard for the success he had in the NBA. Though injuries slowed him down, IT was one of the best point guards in the league when he was with the Boston Celtics.

New York, N.Y.: Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant flips the ball to movie director Spike Lee who yelled at Bryant the whole second half of the game at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks on Sunday Dec. 23, 2007. (Photo by J. Conrad Williams, Jr./Newsday via Getty Images)

Thomas shared a story in 2020 that he used to text Kobe on Fathers’ Day every year, and that Kobe would respond immediately. That is quite touching considering how Kobe spent a lot of time trying to be the best father possible to his daughters.

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Players like IT got to enjoy Kobe as not only a contemporary and opponent on the court, but also as a mentor. Kobe’s impact lives through with players like IT and the many others that he positively influenced.

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Ishaan Bhattacharya

1510 articles

Ishaan Bhattacharya is an NBA, NCAA Basketball, and Combat Sports writer at EssentiallySports. Currently, Ishaan is pursuing a Post Graduate Degree in Journalism from Xavier's Institute of Communication. Previously, Ishaan has written for The Indian Express, The Quint, Sportskeeda, and WrestleClub.

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