Mon | Feb 24, 2020

Kobe was my icon – Samuels

Published:Tuesday | January 28, 2020 | 12:18 AMRobert Bailey/Gleaner Writer

Former Cleveland Cavaliers centre, Jamaican Samardo Samuels, credited late American basketball icon Kobe Bryant for having one of the greatest influences on his career.

Samuels, who played three seasons in the NBA with the Cavaliers before moving to Europe, told The Gleaner from his base in Greece, that Bryant’s passion for the game was a significant reference for him as a player and described the LA Lakers’ great as one of his biggest role models.

“My first time playing against Kobe was at the Staples Center in LA. I remember them announcing his name and I was just the biggest fan,” said Samuels. “I forget that I was the opponent because I got in fan mode and all I could think about was getting an autograph from him because I wanted to touch him.”

“I remembered playing in that game and I was standing next to him and I was just the happiest man in the world. I was saying to him, ‘man I have loved you since I was a kid’,” said 31-year-old Samuels.

The 41-year-old Bryant, a five-time NBA champion, was killed along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed in the city of Calabasas, California, on Sunday morning.

Samuels, who is averaging 18 points for Panionios in the Greek Basketball League, currently wears the number 24 jersey, the same number that Bryant wore in the latter stages of his 20-year career with the Lakers.

24-hour work ethic

“The 24 means everything to him and the 24-hour work ethic that he preaches everyday,” Samuels said. “I remember him doing an interview and he was speaking about his 24-hour work ethic and saying that he doesn’t sleep and he is taking five-hour naps and how he manages his time and how to manage 24 hours in day and that’s why I wore the number 24 and I love this number.”

“Just because of him and the drive that he had, I try to model my whole career from that. Every basketball player tries to model their career to be Kobe and his work ethic. Everybody preaches about how hard he works,” Samuels said.

“I still watch Kobe highlights from the time he had 81 points and I get chills over my body just watching videos of him play. He died in flesh, but he will never die in my heart; that’s my guy. I will forever love Kobe,” Samuels stated.

Bryant retired from the sport in April 2016. His achievements include being the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He was also NBA scoring champion twice and a two-time Olympic champion. He famously scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, the second-highest single-game total in NBA history.