The New York Knicks have quickly formed an identity this season. Head Coach Tom Thibodeau and All-Star power forward Julius Randle came into training camp with fire in their eyes. This is the similar fire and determination the late great Kobe Bryant approached each and every NBA game with. Kobe Bryant was Julius Randle’s mentor during their two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe Bryant’s winning mentality has influenced Julius Randle in a major way. The former Kentucky Wildcat took Kobe’s approach to heart and is now leading the Knicks alongside RJ Barrett toward a playoff push in a very competitive Eastern Conference.
Kobe Bryant helped Julius Randle understand that there’s no sacrifice without actually sacrificing. Every city ‘The Black Mamba’ landed in, the first thing he did was work on his game in an empty gym. Julius Randle has adapted that same habit. It also helps that the entire Knicks roster is made up of gym rats as Tom Thibodeau states below.
"Each and every day he comes in, he's a gym rat – he can't get enough of it"— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) January 8, 2021
Coach Thibodeau reflects on Julius Randle's strong start to the season: pic.twitter.com/MuFJf3O5Va
A Young Knicks Roster is Now Benefiting From Kobe’s Powerful Influence on Julius Randle.
The New York Knicks is now hovering over a .500 record in a tough Eastern Conference. The hard nosed defense and overall resilience on the basketball court of course exemplifies what Tom Thibodeau preaches on a nightly basis. However, Julius Randle came into this season meeting Thibodeau for the first time and impressing the potential 2021 NBA Coach of the Year with his dedication to watching film and physical conditioning. Randle came into the 2021 NBA season ready to lead New York and fix his reputation of being a loser. The former Kentucky Wildcat now understands what it takes to be the focal point for opposing head coaches and defenses.
The five time NBA champion and two time NBA Finals MVP Kobe Bryant exemplified what it took to be a champion and keep the crown. A well respected legend like Kobe in the locker room positively affected many players including Julius Randle. The chiseled 6’9 250lbs power forward talks about how strong Kobe’s leadership and influence was in the following quote from The Players Tribune.
“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.”Julius Randle – Reputation – The Players Tribune
Tom Thibodeau knew and respected Kobe, even in High School.
Tom Thibodeau knew Kobe Bryant in high school while he was an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers. In the following interview, Thibs shared his story about Kobe’s desire to play with the pros and better his game.
Before today's memorial, former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and our old teammate @SarahKustok share stories of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gigi: https://t.co/aMyFbcOBjj pic.twitter.com/nLvzLqDnZz— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) February 24, 2020
RJ Barrett hung up the ‘Maple Mamba’ nickname out of respect for the late great Kobe Bryant.
Knicks rookie RJ Barrett has announced he wants his “Maple Mamba” nickname retired out of respect for Kobe Bryant, The Black Mamba.— Clevis Murray (@ClevisMurray) January 28, 2020
A then 19-year old RJ Barrett, formerly known as the ‘Maple Mamba’ payed homage to one of the greatest basketball players of all time by announcing his desire to not be called by the nickname any longer out of respect. RJ Barrett possesses a similar relentless approach to the game. Barrett is emerging as a very tough player for the New York Knicks and the tenacity the former Duke star plays with exemplifies the hard work he puts in consistently.
Overall, the New York Knicks are playing tough basketball on both ends of the basketball court under the leadership of Tom Thibodeau and Julius Randle. RJ Barrett is a 20-year old contributing to the hard nosed style as if he were built for his current role as the secondary scoring playmaking two way player.