Before Buddy Hield was a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, he was just some dude Kobe Bryant texted on draft night.
Yes, it’s true: Fresh into retirement, Bryant texted the would-be sixth-overall pick of this year’s NBA prospect pageant. Hield recounted the experience for The Players’ Tribune:
On draft night, I got a text from Kobe.
Just like those other Kobe stories, my first reaction was, Wait, is this real? (I’ve also heard that Kobe is known to prank-call people for fun, but I don’t know if that’s true.)
Draft night came up fast — one minute it was the NCAA Tournament and the next thing I knew I was getting fitted for a suit and all that. Sitting in the green room I was seeing a lot of numbers on my phone that I didn’t recognize. So many people were calling and texting with advice and predictions about where I would go, or where I should go.
A few people were asking, Could the Lakers take me at No. 2?
So when Kobe texted, my first thought was, Does he have some … inside info?
I still have the text saved on my phone.
First he said, What’s up? and then said congratulations. But the last thing he wrote to me is what I still think about.
“It doesn’t matter where you go,” he wrote. “It matters more what you do when you get there. Just go there and work.”
This is a pretty dope story. Hield also talked about how he was able to work out with Kobe in Los Angeles one day. It’s clear he had the utmost respect for the Black Mamba, judging by how starstruck he seemed to be at times.
Let this be a lesson to other NBA draft prospects (who are somehow connected to Kobe through various friends and other intermediaries: Kobe may be retired, he may no longer be a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, but he’s always watching.
And, apparently, texting.
But don’t worry, he won’t disown you if you end up somewhere other than with the Lakers. Judging from how he texted Hield at all, retirement seems to have softened him at least that much.