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The NBA season is halfway through, meaning it’s time for the mid-season classic, the NBA All-Star game. The Lakers have two all-stars this season, Anthony Davis, who sadly won’t be playing due to his injury, and LeBron James, who is entering his 17th all-star game in his 18-year career. 

Joining LeBron as all-stars would be seasoned veteran superstars, and several time all-stars like Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. But they will also be joined by young stars who are getting their first all-star selections just like Zion Williamson, and Jaylen Brown. 

Former Laker and current New York Knicks star Julius Randle has also been selected for his first all-star appearance.

In 2014, Randle was the number 7 overall pick of the Lakers, for whom he played his first four seasons in the league. He was an integral part of the Lakers’ young core before that young core was disbanded. 

Randle recently posted an article on The Players’ Tribune entitled “Reputation.” It’s all about how in the midst of his all-star performance this season, he is trying to flip the script on his reputation, and how he is trying to build something special in New York with his teammates. Part of all of that is being a mentor to the young guys on the team. He mentions how he influences his young teammates to get better through sacrifice and putting the work in, something he learned from his former veteran teammate, Kobe Bryant. Here’s an excerpt from Randle’s article that explains how Kobe has affected him: 

“I grew up in Dallas, so I had this early-season road game against the Mavericks circled on my calendar. I was excited. Excited to feel that sense of accomplishment, of being that kid from your neighborhood growing up who made it to the league.

“We flew in after a Wednesday night game, and the Mavs game wasn’t until Friday late, which meant we had an off day in Dallas. So guys were definitely going out that night. Me, I’ve got family, I’ve got a bunch of friends texting and whatnot, with this plan and that plan. Y’all have to keep in mind I’m 20 years old at this time. You can imagine where my head is at.

“So then we get off the plane, we ride to the hotel, and — ha. Wow. I will never forget this. We’re coming up on the hotel in Dallas, and Kobe turns to me and he goes, ‘Julius, what you bout to do.’

“I’m like, ‘I’m about to see my family, chill with some friends, you know. Have a night.’

“And Kobe, he just cuts me off. He’s like, ‘Nah. We’re going to the gym.’

“Bro….

“I mean, that right there, it’s just the power of Kobe. If anyone else in the world had said that to me, in that moment, I might have hit ’em with an eye roll and went on with my business. But when Mamba is telling you that it’s a change of plans, and you’re coming with him to the gym tonight? You don’t ask questions. You just do as you’re told.

“And of course Kobe knew we were in my hometown. Of course he knew. But that wasn’t him being a bad dude or anything. It was more like — it was him trying to use the situation to teach me a lesson. The lesson being: To get to the next level in this league, you can’t be putting in that next level of work only some of the time. Has to be all of the time. No such thing as sacrifice without sacrifice.

“That was November 2015, Kobe’s last season. And from then on, everything he showed me that night, straight up: it’s become my routine. If we’re on a road trip, as soon as we get off the plane, there you go, that’s my night — before I do anything else. I’m heading to the gym, I’m getting my shots up, I’m putting in my work.

“And what’s crazy is…. O.K., here’s the end of the story. So we’re in Detroit last season, on a road trip. And we fly in, I grab my bags, and like I said: it’s been my routine ever since that night in Dallas. Get off the plane, head to the gym. Get off the plane, head to the gym. Get off the plane, head to the gym. Like clockwork. Every city, though, it’s a new situation — there’s different places available. So what I’ll do is, I’ll have the team set up a spot in advance. And that way I can go straight there, however late it is, and get my workout in.

“On this particular trip, in Detroit, they had this little high school gym opened up for me. I love gyms like that — simple and old school. And I get to the building, and the guy who was there to let me in, I think he’s the athletic director of that school, we start talking a little bit. And he’s like, ‘It’s good to see you. Guys don’t really show up here to work out anymore. Matter of fact, the last guy to come in this late to shoot — man, that must have been years ago. It was Kobe.’

“Yo.

“I mean, just hearing him say the name….. it gave me chills.

“This was the month after Kobe had passed — and it was just one of those moments. One of those moments that stays with you. One of those moments that forces you to take a second, and feel humble about how connected everything is.

“And I guess how that story connects this season to everything else for me, is like: I think I’ve always known what a blessing it was that I got to be teammates with Kobe for his last two years in the league. But there’s knowing…. and then there’s understanding. And I think this year, for the first time, I’ve really understood why Kobe mentored younger players like me. Not just so we could flourish ourselves, but so we could pass down what we learned to other players as well. I think that’s a huge part of his legacy, especially in those last few years.”

Kobe has certainly impacted Julius and so many other players in the game today. Julius has been averaging 23.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 5.5 assists so far this year en route to his first all-star selection. His on court performance, and his off court work ethic can be largely attributed to the late Laker star, Kobe Bryant. 

It’s safe to say that the Mamba Mentality lives on in Julius Randle, and he is continuing the cycle and passing it on to the next generation as well.

Featured Image: Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports
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