Jayson Tatum idolized Kobe Bryant growing up. Now that the retired Laker has seen Tatum up close and in person, Bryant is reportedly wondering why his former team didn’t draft the Celtics’ rising star with the No. 1 overall pick.
On “The Sidelines with Evan Daniels” podcast, NBA skills trainer Drew Hanlen described showing Bryant a video of Tatum mimicking some of Bryant’s moves. The 5-time champion was impressed.
“It was cool,” Hanlen said. “We actually showed Kobe it yesterday and he was like, ‘Why didn’t the Lakers draft him?’, which was pretty funny, after seeing that.”
Los Angeles, of course, selected Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick. Danny Ainge and the Celtics — who would have taken Tatum with the first pick anyways — moved down to the No. 3 slot, where they got the player they wanted and an additional first-rounder.
Tatum was mimicking Bryant for a long time before the Lakers star ever heard of him. Hanlen initially worked with Tatum when he was a 13-year-old prospect on the St. Louis scene. In their first workout together, Hanlen says he “tried to kill [Tatum]”, but despite looking sluggish and near feinting, the youngster never gave in.
The trainer received a text from Tatum’s mother, Brandy, after the workout concluded. She told Hanlen that her son had said, “Mom they were going to have to carry me off the court before I gave up.”
From there, the pair worked on adding Bryant’s signature jab-step to Tatum’s game. They worked out each morning before school, polishing the pace and rhythm of the jab. Tatum played in a tournament a couple weeks later. His jab-step was already being described as “lethal.”
At that point, Hanlen said he knew he was tutoring the No. 1 player in the country for his age-group. Tatum had talent to spare, but he also had the right mentality for the game and a insatiable craving for improvement. Although some observers were shocked by the rookie’s ability to score off the bat in the NBA, Hanlen was not. He belives his pupil is a future MVP-candidate.
“He’s that good,” Hanlen said.
The trainer has also been working with another Celtics star. According to Hanlen, Gordon Hayward is back to 100 percent in workouts and will get back to live-action basketball in the next week or two.