Before Anthony Davis was the superstar leading the Los Angeles Lakers, he was a 19-year-old kid selected to play for Team USA at the Olympics before ever even suiting up for an NBA game. Understandably, the experience was a bit overwhelming for such a young player, but fortunately, he found the perfect mentor in Kobe Bryant. As his father, Anthony Davis Sr., told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, Davis was basically Bryant's shadow during the 2012 Olympics.
"When we first got there," Anthony Davis Sr. told ESPN, "Kobe came over to us and said, 'Mr. Davis, I got your boy with me. I'm taking the young fella under my wing. He's going everywhere I go this whole Olympics.' And that's what he did. Wherever Kobe went, Anthony went.'"
According to Shelburne, Bryant went on to make a point of saying hello to Davis' parents whenever he played in New Orleans. While he did not actively recruit Davis to Los Angeles, it's worth noting that Davis Sr. played a role in getting his son to the Lakers. When Davis was on the trade market and the Boston Celtics were the presumed favorites, Davis Sr. deterred them in a conversation with Shelburne.
"I would never want my son to play for Boston after what they done to Isaiah Thomas," Davis Sr. said "No loyalty. Guy gives his heart and soul and they traded him."
"This is just my opinion, not Anthony's," he said. "I've just seen things over the years with Boston, and there's no loyalty."
If loyalty was a concern to the Davis family, the Lakers were the perfect destination. Bryant was proof of that. The Lakers gave him a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension even after he tore his Achilles in 2013 that made little sense in basketball terms. Then-head of Lakers basketball operations Jim Buss explained the decision as a sort of thank you to Bryant for everything he'd done for the team.
"This wasn't something I decided to do; this wasn't something [general manager] Mitch Kupchak decided to do. This was a Buss family decision," Buss told Shelburne at the time.
"We made him the highest-paid player in the NBA because we felt like it was the right thing to do. This wasn't about what somebody else would pay him or outbidding anyone for him.
When Davis was in a position to dictate his future, he did everything in his power to become a Laker. LeBron James was obviously a big part of that, but Davis conceivably could have won with a number of teams. He wanted to do so as a Laker. What role Bryant's mentorship had in that decision is unknowable, but there's something fitting about the star that helped the Lakers return to the Finals being personally approved by Bryant. In some small way, Kobe helped the Lakers return to prominence.