‘Stand Up to the Bully’: Former Lakers Star Reveals When Kobe Bryant Showed His Leadership Around Pau Gasol

Published 04/17/2021, 9:30 AM EDT
Boston, Massachusettes–June 17, 2008 Lakers Kobe Bryant walks off the court as the Celtics celebrate the championship in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at the TD Banknorth Center Tuesday. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


Kobe Bryant was a class apart in everything he ever did. He was never about mediocrity, and his mamba mentality never allowed him to stop at anything but the peak. The Lakers in the post Magic Johnson era could keep alive their dominance only because of this ambitious man from Philadelphia.

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After Kobe, along with Shaquille O’Neal, completed a three-peat of NBA Championships in the early millennium, the Lakers again faced a dry spell. It was during these desperate years that Kobe got hungrier and ever more demanding from his teammates.

When Kobe Bryant schooled Pau Gasol

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The Lakers signed Pau Gasol in the mid 2007-08 season in the trade, where they let go of the draft rights of Marc Gasol. That year, Doc Rivers-led Boston Celtics were on a great show with many star players hungry to take home a championship. Even as Kobe Bryant remained the point leader in the NBA Finals 2008, the Celtics successfully lifted their 17th NBA title.

In a recent interview, Kobe’s teammate Coby Karl detailed how Kobe was unimpressed with Pau Gasol and wanted him to get better. The former Laker detailed, “It’s been documented pretty well that Kobe challenged Pau that summer to be more physical and to stand up to the bully that Kevin Garnett were or Kendrick Perkins were. It wasn’t his nature, he’s more skilled and a more talented basketball player.

“But, it was really cool to see that maturation and that development. Now you can see in Pau when he talks about Kobe in that relationship. How much he appreciated his teammate pushing him to be better.”

Unfortunately for Coby Karl, the Lakers sent him off the roster only after 17 games. Later, the franchise, under the tough leadership of the Black Mamba, did seek their revenge in 2010.

Read also – Stephen A Smith Reveals One of Kobe Bryant’s Biggest Regrets Involving Michael Jordan

The leadership lessons from the Lakers legend’s struggling days

Kobe Bryant of the Lakers bites his jersey in Game two of the WC Semis against the Spurs during the 2003 NBA Playoffs, May 7, 2003. (Photo by: Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

The leader in Kobe Bryant is a subject of case study for many sports management institutions today. His foresight, intellect, resilience, and adaptability always kept him ahead of others. One example of his champion mentality comes from his early days when coach Phil Jackson coached the Lakers. Kobe would introduce himself as “I’m Kobe Bryant, I wanna win a championship” and that would amaze one and all. 

In the same interview, Coby Karl gave an example from 2007 to make the point around Kobe’s leadership. Prior to the 2007-08 season, the Lakers had lost the first rounds of back-to-back playoffs. That had gotten under the skin of the Black Mamba. 

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Just as the 37-YO expressed, “The previous year there was a lot of attention on Kobe for kind of throwing his teammates under the bus. They had a couple of journeymen playing starting roles and Kobe was really… Kobe asked for a trade right at the beginning of the season. He was really disgruntled… That personality type is really seeking to succeed.”

No doubt, only the rare gems with such clarity of vision achieve great heights. These anecdotes detail why Kobe shall always inspire us to work hard for our dreams.

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Read also – WATCH – Jessica Korda Channels Her Inner Kobe Bryant at the Lotte Championship

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Sourabh Singh

1109 articles

Sourabh Singh is an NBA sports analyst for EssentiallySports, who has been working with the site since May 2020. Prior to this, he functioned as Managing Editor at WittyFeed, followed by a stint at Decathlon. The Sports Management graduate leads an active lifestyle, veering to the mountains for off-trail adventures.

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