Eagle: Kobe's Retirement Tour Showed Evolution In Philosophy

Kobe Bryant entered the NBA a brash and cocky teenager; he left it a vulnerable elder statesman

The DA Show
January 27, 2020 - 10:34 am

When Kobe Bryant entered the NBA in 1996, he wasn’t exactly the most well-liked player in the league.

“He had an immense amount of hubris when he entered the league – to the point where a lot of people were taken aback and almost turned off,” longtime NBA voice Ian Eagle said on The DA Show. “He set up his goals, and his goals seemed a bit unrealistic for those at the time – 1996 – that were used to Michael Jordan and Jordan’s ascent to the greatest of all time, in some people’s eyes. And Kobe was saying things that seemed completely out of the ordinary at the time. So I think the initial perception of Kobe was, ‘Wow, this is a really cocky young guy who is talking a bit game.’”
But then he backed it up. Bryant, who teamed with Shaquille O’Neal early in his career, helped the Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles from 2000 to 2002. Then Bryant won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.

“[He had a] relentless mindset of hard work, of determination, of drive, of holding people to a higher standard,” Eagle said. “The fact that he made other players uncomfortable – players that had to play against him, first and foremost, and then players on his own team because of the level that he expected from himself and he expected from his teammates. That would create uncomfortable situations, and he seemed to thrive in the uncomfortable.”

Sadly, Bryant died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday. He, along with his daughter, Gianna, were among nine victims.

While fans will surely remember the brash young player that took the league by storm, they’ll also remember Bryant assuming the role of the league’s elder statesman. Toward the end of his career, Bryant was more vulnerable and perhaps a little more humble. He came full circle during his NBA swan song and received love from every arena in which he played. He enjoyed it, too.

“It showed a true evolution in his philosophy and his openness to who he was,” Eagle said, “a self-awareness from the very confident and cocky young kid that came into the league who then achieved all the goals and took on all the challenges, and then accepted the love at the end, and embraced it, and understood why people were celebrating him in the way that they were.”

Bryant, an 18-time All-Star and two-time Finals MVP, was perhaps the best player of his era and will endure as one of the greatest players of all time.

“From a personal standpoint, there were very few players – a handful – that you felt different walking into an arena if you knew they were in the lineup,” said Eagle, who is in his 26th season of NBA broadcasting. “You’re talking about Michael Jordan, you’re talking about LeBron James, and you’re talking about Kobe Bryant. Those three changed the whole vibe of your broadcast, of the environment within the arena and how the game felt. That’s next-level stuff. That’s a select few. Athletes, only a few, get to that stage, and Kobe got there and stayed there for a very long time. His impact is immense on a generation of players and fans. That’s never, ever going to fade. His imprint was very much felt, and it’s unimaginable what happened yesterday. It was a gut punch for anybody that’s been a fan of the NBA.”