Remembering the Time Kobe Bryant Visited the Patriots at OTAs
The loss of Los Angeles Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in CA with his daughter, Gianna on Sunday, has us thinking about the ways in which the NBA legend impacted and inspired the New England Patriots.
The most recent connection the two have was back in 2018 when Bryant visited the Patriots at OTAs. During his trip to Foxboro, Bryant got to spend time at Patriots practice, as well as in the meeting room with some of the players and coaches.
"I have a ton of respect for Kobe," head coach Bill Belichick said, who was the one to invite Bryant to the Patriots' facility. "Obviously a great player, had a great career. Spent the day with him yesterday. He had a lot of great observations and things we could learn from. He's a tremendous guy."
The question that resonated from Bryant's time in New England: why was he there?
Well, according to The MMQB's Albert Breer, it may have not only been because of Bryant's legendary status, but also because his work ethic draws comparisons to Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady.
"Among Bryant’s talking points was the importance of training, and of studying other players, to his ability to play two decades in the NBA," Breer wrote in 2018. "The Patriots who were listening have another pretty good example of longevity in their own locker room, and they made the connection quickly."
Players then began to express how they felt Brady and Bryant's greatness, though different in their own rights, had similar structures.
“With Tom and Kobe, you see they have totally different workout regimens, but you see it works perfectly for each one of them in a totally different way,” then-Patriots RB Jeremy Hill told Breer. “For me, and everyone in the locker room, whatever we can take from that and apply to ourselves to make ourselves better, even if it’s just a little better, that stuff is huge.”
“When (Bryant) was telling us about his training regimen, how he approached a day, a light bulb went off in my head: That’s Tom," safety Duron Harmon said. "You realize it’s no coincidence. That’s the reason why Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant. That’s the reason why Tom Brady is Tom Brady. (Brady’s) approach to the game, it’s totally different than the majority of the NFL, probably 99% of the NFL. And that’s why they have the success they have.”
Pro Bowlers Matthew Slater and Stephon Gilmore, who heard the news of Bryant's death at the Pro Bowl Sunday afternoon, spoke about the day in which Bryant visited the team two years ago. You can tell the 20-year NBA veteran had an impact on them.
“One thing (Bryant) said to me,” Slater told Jeff Howe of The Athletic, “that really stuck out about that day was, hey, when you’re at work and you’re working on your craft, you’ve got to give everything you have. You’ve got to be disciplined. You’ve got to be willing to sacrifice everything. But when you go home, you’ve got to bring the same energy and passion and focus to the time you spend with your family. That really stuck with me. That was the one thing he said that stuck with me. Because sometimes that’s hard to do as an athlete. You come home. You’re tired. Your kids want to run around. Man, you’ve just got to hold onto these moments that you have.”
Slater grew up in Orange County, CA, so you can understand how heroic Bryant was to New England's captain growing up.
“I really got to know him,” Gilmore said of his time with Bryant back in 2018. “It was a great time. He talked to me individually. I learned a lot from him, just talked the game, life. It’s just sad. It’s sad. I didn’t believe it at first.
“He worked for everything he had. He was very talented, but his work ethic really stood out to me and his mentality, going into each and every game, how he prepared. That’s one thing that stuck out to me.”
Bryant's impact on sports in general is why many media outlets, just like ours, which does not cover basketball, will make connections about how the five-time NBA champion impacted their respective teams and sports. His impact on basketball, and on young kids who wanted to play the game, has resonated for decades since he first set foot on an NBA court. Bryant's legacy will continue on past his death, as he is one of the greatest basketball players to ever set foot on this planet.