For Jodie Meeks, being around Kobe Bryant might have just changed his life. Sure, the former second round pick was always a hard worker, and Mike D’Anotni’s system, coupled with increased minutes, was definitely a big part of Meeks having a career year last season, though the 27-year-old also clearly benefited from seeing just how hard the Black Mamba worked on a daily basis.
This summer, Meeks left the Lakers after signing a three-year, $19.5 million deal with the Detroit Pistons (up until that point, Meeks’ career earnings over five seasons totaled just over $5 million, per Basketball Reference) and was recently asked by Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press to reveal his favorite Kobe Bryant memory.
“Practice was at 11, we had to be there at 10. Well, I wanted to get there at 10,” Meeks said, recalling the first day of the Lakers’ training camp in 2012. “He was already there fully dressed and sweating. I got to the locker room at 9:30, got on the court at 10, and he had been there an hour and a half working on stuff.
“I was like, ‘Man, it is true.’ This guy is working like this and at the time he was 34 years old. He felt like he still had a lot to prove, and he was still trying to prove people wrong. I was like, ‘Man, great player.’”
Meeks didn’t stop there.
“I feel like I learned a lot from him as far as the mental aspect of the game,” Meeks said. “It’s encouraging to me because here’s probably the second greatest shooting guard ever (Michael Jordan No. 1) putting in this type of work, then I should be putting in work like that. I’m still trying to get to my peak and still trying to get to my prime, so I need to work just as hard or even harder to get there. He’s outworking everybody.”
Last season, Meeks saw his averages jump from 7.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 0.7 steals per game (35 percent from three-point range) in 2012-13 to 15.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.4 steals (40 percent from three) in 2013-14. As previously noted, Meeks’ work ethic, the system he was playing in and the opportunity he was presented with all contributed to his improvement, though it seems the Kentucky product definitely also learned a lot from being around the Mamba for two seasons.
“No matter if he was sick or hurt or injured, he never made excuses,” said Meeks, who paid tribute to Bryant earlier this summer and thanked the five-time NBA champion for his “encouragement” over the past two years. “He just kept working hard. He got better, and you see where he’s at.”