Knicks’ Austin Rivers reflects on legacy of Kobe Bryant

Austin Rivers contests Jordan Clarkson shot
Austin Rivers contests Jordan Clarkson shot

With Tuesday marking the one-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death, the sports world continues to mourn and remember the NBA legend.

Those remembering Bryant on Tuesday included Austin Rivers of the Knicks.

Rivers had the opportunity to face Bryant a few times, from Rivers’ rookie season with the New Orleans Pelicans (then Hornets) in 2012, to playing under his father, Doc Rivers, with that «other» LA team that plays at the Staples Center, to the Lakers great’s final year in 2016.

He took time on Tuesday to reflect on some of the things he personally learned from Bryant over the years.

«I have multiple things that’s why I’m taking my time just picking one,» Rivers told reporters via Zoom. «If I had to choose making a statement, he’s helped me with his times of doubt and in times of failure, trust your hard work. He used to come up to me and talk to me about all my games, just about all of them. Especially early on when I was young. And especially when I was struggling.

«My first 2 ½ years, I think to anybody’s knowledge, or anybody who knows me, I wasn’t playing my best basketball, to put it nicely. And I was really struggling to find myself in the NBA. And he was someone who would come up and talk to me after the games.

«Nothing crazy. I don’t want to overblow what our relationship was. He didn’t call me or text me or anything like that. But he would take his time and talk to me after the game when he didn’t have to. And he would always stress about what my game is, understanding what my game is. Watching film of myself. What do I want to be and where do I want to be, what spots do I want to be at. And he used to talk about preparation and hard work. And he helped me in a big way, to that regard.»

Talking about Bryant’s overall legacy, Rivers said that he considers him one of the GOAT’s.

«I looked on the court today and I saw nine guys in shootaround wearing his sneakers. That’s something that money can’t buy – that type of legacy,» Rivers said. «The stuff that he has is stuff you can’t really explain. He’s changed the game. I’ve only seen a couple guys change the game like Kobe, you could say LeBron [James}, Kobe and [Michael Jordan}, in terms of my lifetime. Those are my three, I think, greatest players of all time and I think those are the guys that have changed the NBA more than anybody. So, yeah, Kobe’s a legend, man. He’s a GOAT. There’s no doubt about it.

«You see somebody who is gone so quickly and you immediately feel for him, you feel for his family, you feel for his legacy. He was just getting going. But on the same note, you see the impact he had on everyone’s life. That’s what you guys are asking about. This is a year ago and today we’re talking about it. I still see posts about him all the time because he meant so much to everyone.»