Kobe Bryant says if Ben Simmons is drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, the expectation on the Australian teenager to deliver NBA titles will be huge.
Bryant, speaking to reporters on Monday, will retire at the end of the season after 20 years and five NBA championships with the Lakers and described Simmons as “a fantastic player” with “a tremendous amount of potential”.
Laker fans, after suffering through woeful seasons in recent years and currently with the second-worst record in the NBA, have their fingers crossed the team will secure the No.1 pick in next year’s draft and select Simmons.
Bryant said if the Melbourne teenager does become a Laker the city’s legion of fans expect just one thing each season – an NBA Championship.
“It’s not about handing over keys or anything of that nature,” Bryant said.
“It’s about the player that’s here.
“Do you have the attitude that winning championships is the only mission? The only goal?
“If you don’t win a championship the season is a failure.
“If you have that attitude this city will absolutely love you and you’ll get this team back to playing and winning at a level it is accustomed to.”
Simmons is starring as a freshman for Louisiana State University this season and despite the team’s patchy form, the 208cm tall 19-year-old – who plays every position from point guard to centre – has put up big numbers that confirm him as the likely No.1 draft pick.
Bryant said talent is one thing, but Simmons’ drive and passion for the game will define if he is a success in the NBA or not.
The great NBA players love the process of training and preparing for games more than actually winning and that desire can’t be taught, the 37-year-old said.
“The key really is loving what you do,” Bryant said.
“That’s the magic of it.”
Bryant also spoke about another young Australian, 20-year-old Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee playing for the Australian team in Europe in August.
Bryant, who has the same agent as Exum and has got to know him, is confident he will bounce back.
Bryant has overcome numerous serious injuries in recent years, including a torn Achilles and a fractured knee.
“Dante is a fantastic young player,” Bryant said.
“I think he will bounce back. I think he’ll just be fine.”