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Ever wonder how a genius goes about perfecting his craft?
Kobe Bryant focused on his biz by completely focusing on Kobe Bryant and perfecting the things that he does best in becoming the legend that he is.
For added confirmation, you have none other than undrafted journeyman forward Tony Gaffney, he of the pro tours in Turkey, Germany, and Spain, all the while with the growing rep of being a defensive specialist as a part of his repertoire. Mad scientist that he is, Bryant took heed of the latter part of that equation in deciding to bring Gaffney into his inner circle.
The 6-foot-9 Gaffney recently publicly recalled a five-month, up-close and personal period with the Bryant after being the Lakers’ last cut in 2009 during which he essentially served as the Black Mamba’s never-ending prey.
“We’re gonna start playing one-on-one,” the 29-year-old Gaffney recalled Bryant instructing him, even as then fellow teammate Lamar Odom warned him “Kobe doesn’t like mother****ers like you.”
Gaffney’s NBA existence, no matter how fleeting, was then based on his rep as a defensive stopper, and Kobe Bryant, being the offensive wonder that he is, wasn’t about to believe the hype before determining for himself that it was for real. “I heard you’re a defensive lockdown player,” Gaffney recalls among the very first words Bryant ever uttered to him. “So, lock me down.”
Bryant and the Lakers had just come off of winning one of his five titles and he wanted more— no matter what it took to get it. “We’re gonna start playing one-on-one,” Bryant reportedly demanded. “I heard you’re a defensive player.”
For at least the next three weeks, Bryant and Gaffney squared off in mano a mano showdowns that often started hours before practice and sometimes resumed after it had officially ended. And they were always on Kobe’s terms, rules altered to allow him to more easily dribble and score with his weak hand, and not so much as even allowing Gaffney to play offense.
“No matter how early I showed up for practice, it wasn’t early enough Kobe was on the court with three trainers doused in sweat,” Gaffney recalled. “There are loads of stories about what makes Kobe who he is. Some will argue one of the greatest of all time, while others would say the most arrogant of all time. Personally, I don’t think there was a player I interacted with better.”
But through it all, Bryant took Gaffney under his wing and should at least be somewhat credited with aiding him land the lucrative deal he now has with top division Israel team Hapoel Jerusalem on the strength of averaging a Kobe-like, some-of-everything 11 points and seven rebounds in a series of league showcase outings.
Clearly, being in the company of greatness can have its virtues.
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