UP, UP AND AWAY: Ben Simmons, pictured in action for LSU, has been talked about as a potential successor to Kobe Byrant at the LA Lakers. Picture: Getty Images
RETIRING NBA legend Kobe Bryant has labelled Australian college sensation Ben Simmons as a player with “a tremendous amount of potential” and providedthe teenager with some advice if he ends up at the Los Angeles Lakers next season.
Bryant will retire at the end of this season after 20 years with the iconic NBA franchise, however he will leave the once all-conquering Lakers a shadow of the team he led to five championships between 2000 and 2010.
The franchise’s predicament could lead to the opportunity to snap up Simmons, a former Newcastle Hunters juniorwho is expected to be the No.1 draft pick next season after putting his name up in lights at Louisiana State University.
While the talent is there for all to see, Bryant believes it will be his attitude that will determine whether the 19-year-old can help the Lakers regain contender status if he was to call Staples Center home, urging the forward to play with a championship or bust mentality.
“As far as Simmons, it’s a matter of what he wants to take on,” Bryant told Australian reporters.
“It’s not about handing over keys or anything of that nature. It’s really about the player that’s here. Do you have the attitude to win a championship? That’s the only mission. That’s the only goal.
“If you don’t win a championship, the season’s a failure. If you have that attitude, the city will absolutely love you and you’ll get this team back to winning and playing at a level it is accustomed to.”
Bryant,37, has shown incredible longevity and a desire to compete that has earned him the title of one of the NBA’s greatest.While he recognises Simmons’ natural ability, he insists the magic is made off the court.
“I think he’s a fantastic player,” Bryant said of Simmons.”I think he has obviously a tremendous amount of potential. The key is really loving what you do. That’s the magic of it man, just really loving it. You know you love it when you actually enjoy the process of it all.
“If you love getting ready, if you love training, if you love preparing just as much as you love the end result of winning or even more so than the end result of winning, then you know you have something truly, truly special. That’s something that you can’t beat. That’s something you can’t bring out of a person. You either love that thing or you don’t.”