Kobe Bryant’s bright future was almost immediately apparent to Byron Scott.
Scott was a 36-year-old veteran on the Los Angeles Lakers when they traded for the 18-year-old Bryant, who had been taken by the Charlotte Hornets the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft.
Scott, who would later coach Bryant’s final two seasons with the Lakers, told Business Insider while promoting his new book “Slam-Dunk Success” that, like many others, Bryant’s legendary work ethic foreshadowed his Hall of Fame career.
“I tell a story a lot about Kobe at 18 years old, I was 36, so my last year with the Lakers,” Scott said. “I would always have to come to practice early to get my treatment and get ready for practice being the elder statesman.
“I came in one time, and we were still playing at the Fabulous Forum, and I heard the ball bouncing. No lights were on. Practice was at about 11, it was probably about 9, 9:30. And I go out to the court and I look, and there’s Kobe Bryant. He’s out there shooting in the dark. And I stood there for probably about ten seconds, and I said, ‘This kid is gonna be great’ … I knew this kid was gonna be special.”
Scott said despite the age difference, Bryant was always different and that it was comforting to have such a motivated rookie on the team.
“It made me feel great because of the fact that I understood that he had one mindset, and that was to be the very best basketball player he could be,” Scott said.
“I knew early, just watching him and just his mannerisms, the way he carried himself at 18 years old, he wasn’t like your normal 18-year-old.”
That 18-year-old would later go on to win MVP, five championships, and finish third all-time in points scored.
Watch our interview with Byron Scott below: