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Exclusive: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James’ coach, Phil Handy, addresses GOAT debate, similarities between two stars

Phil Handy, Lakers, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant

With the NBA seemingly on the verge of resuming its 2019-20 season, the Los Angeles Lakers are gearing up for a championship run and what would be 17th title, which would tie the record for the most in league history with the arch-rival Boston Celtics.

As the league, its players, and the fans await the official return date, we reached out to Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy about joining Tomer Azarly and I on ClutchPoints’ ‘Battle for L.A. Podcast‘ and he was more than willing to spend some time with us to talk about many different topics, including the impact Kobe Bryant had on him and what it was like working with the five-time champion.

“Man, I loved it,” Phil Handy said of working with Kobe Bryant. “That was the only reason why I ever became a coach in the NBA. Kobe Bryant was the sole reason because I initially had some other opportunities with several coaching staffs, and I wasn’t interested.

“In my pursuit of wanting to be one of the best trainers in the industry, I looked at the opportunity of working and getting to know Kobe as the ultimate challenge because I didn’t know him. That was the driving force for me in taking the opportunity to work for the Lakers. He was just a class act. He is the ultimate competitor. He’s one of those dudes that’s cut from MJ’s cloth. He wanted to compete and find angles to compete. He was always trying to find different people to push and compete.

“My time with him was crucial, and it was educational for me. And just really getting to see the fabric of some of the greatest players ever to play the game and what they do – on how’s their approach daily to be great. So I look back on those years, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to spend some time with him.”

In the aftermath of “The Last Dance” documentary, the GOAT debate has been reignited with LeBron James and Michael Jordan at the forefront, and Bryant mentioned in the conversation. We asked Handy about his opinion on the ongoing debate and similarities he may have seen between LeBron and Kobe.

“Absolutely,” Phil Handy said. “With those guys, people always have a conversation about the GOAT, and they’re trying to put those guys against each other on a daily basis. But what people don’t understand, all three of those guys and any other great players’ work ethics are insane. Like, insane to the point that people don’t really understand the work that they put in on and off the court and taking care of their bodies.

“There are a lot of common denominators between Kobe and LeBron with the time I spent with them. A lot of denominators on how they study the game, their basketball IQ, studying their opponents, studying themselves. They’re in a different class because, for them, they are really pushing themselves to try to perfect the game, and they’re pushing themselves to be as great as they can be every day.

“Having had the chance to work with both of those guys, there were so many similarities with their approach to the game and how hard they work.”

Along with going into depth about coaching Lakers superstars LeBron and Kobe, Handy spoke at length about his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, and dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

You can listen to the full podcast on:

Apple: Battle for LA Podcast

Spotify: Battle for LA Podcast

You can follow Tomer Azarly for all your Clippers and NBA news on Twitter and Instagram.

You can follow Ryan Ward for all your Lakers and NBA news on Twitter and Instagram.