In 1996, an 18-year-old Kobe Bryant just starting his NBA career, shared a sideline with Byron Scott, who was ending his own. Faded photos almost two decades old show the pair sitting next to each other on the sideline, dressed in bright yellow warm up suits: the rookie and the veteran.
This season, they will be the aging superstar and the new coach.
Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers introduced Scott as their 25th head coach in franchise history, as the former Showtime Laker is now tasked with resurrecting his old team. Bryant, who only played in six games last season, will be a key cog in Scott’s initial success with the Lakers, and the coach said Tuesday he has maintained a “great relationship” with the 35-year-old shooting guard, which should help the team find success.
“Kobe’s an unbelievable basketball player that has an unbelievable mind for the game of basketball, and I see us conversating a lot about the things we should do on the basketball court,” Scott said. “As a coach, there are certain things that I’m going to see out on the floor and there are certain things that he’s going to see. And at times, I’m going to go with some of the things he sees and I’m going to go with some of the things I see.”
Magic Johnson, who was on hand Tuesday in support of his former teammate, said that philosophy was one Scott learned from Pat Riley. Scott played under Riley from 1983-90, and they won three championships together (1985, 1987-88). With Riley, players were encouraged to give input and suggestions on the court, but ultimately the coach made the final decision.
“It’s good that the players will have input and Byron will have the final say-so,” Johnson said. “He’s used to that. When you’ve been brought up that way in a system we had with Coach Riley, I can see a lot of Coach Riley in Byron. … He’s took a lot of Pat Riley, but also has his own style at the same time.”
Besides similar coaching ideals, Johnson sees a lot of Riley in Scott, from the way they talk to even the way Scott holds his papers in his shorts like Riley.
A knee injury shut Bryant down in March, as he sustained a lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee. Before that, he missed training camp, the preseason and the beginning of the regular season due to a torn Achilles suffered the previous year.