After helping the Cleveland Cavaliers end a 52-year championship drought in improbable fashion, Kyrie Irving says he had to get in touch with his hero, Kobe Bryant.
Irving scored 26 points in Game 7 against the Golden State Warriors, including a back-breaking three-pointer in MVP Stephen Curry’s grill.
Kyrie: "All I was thinking at the end of the game was Mamba Mentality."
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) June 20, 2016
Uncle Drew and The Black Mamba chatted throughout the Cavs’ title quest.
“I actually FaceTimed Kobe after the game as soon as I got in the locker room,” Irving says. “Other than seeing my dad and my sister right after we won, FaceTiming him was just a great thing, knowing how he has won five and I just won my first. Then realizing how hard it is just to win one, my respect for him is already high, but it went to another level knowing that he’s got five of them. I’m trying to get a second one.”
Irving credits Phil Handy, who was also on the FaceTime, for sparking his relationship with Bryant. Handy serves as Cavs Director of Player Development/Assistant Coach, a position he has held since 2013, previously serving as Lakers Director of Player Development. […] “[Bryant] was telling me congrats,” Irving says of the FaceTime. “I had been speaking to him throughout the entire playoffs and during the season. During the Finals, we didn’t really talk as much, because for me, I wanted to experience it full on, and if I needed his help, I would reach out to him. He would send me some texts here and there, but mainly he kind of let me be, and let me grow into my own space.”
According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Bryant spent part of his retirement tour dishing out advice to fellow competitors. To “young players like Irving,” Bryant advised he “create conflict on their team so nobody ever gets comfortable.” […] “I would say the last two years has been great just from a mental aspect, as well as being a pupil and a student of the game, and also of his,” Irving says of playing in Bryant’s era. “I’m really just watching and studying as much as possible to make sure I am getting the full potential out of myself and my teammates, and ultimately, winning basketball games and becoming the best player I can be.”