Bryant was the unexpectd hero, the hidden ace in Ergin Ataman’s sleeve. He was the sniper at the corner to finish with 4-6 triples, he fought his way through opposing players to finish with six rebounds (three on offense) and overall complete the game with a season-high 16 points on 6-8 shots plus a steal and a block in 31:16 minutes.
“Just being assertive, Bryant told Eurohoops on his mindset before the semifinal. “Not thinking too much. Go out there and play. Just make shots. not thinking too much. Catch shoots. be aggressive, be about.”
It’s not that Bryant doesn’t have the talent, skill or overall capabilities to produce and make a difference on offense. Just that his role on Efes encompasses primarily things like playing tough defense, help with the rebounds, being a supportive unit and doing all sorts of dirty “work” on both ends.
Bryant was locked and loaded to deliver. And one thing that he believes helped him being more than ready for the task was his NBA experience with the Milwaukee Bucks.
“I think I learned a lot when I was over in the NBA,” Bryant, a champion with the Bucks in 2021, said. “Finding these moments and make the most out of them. I didn’t play a lot in the NBA but I was able to see how the guys reacted in these very high-pressure situations. Just take a little bit of that and buy it for myself, I think it helped the lot.”
Bryant joined the Bucks in May 13 after a stint with Maccabi Tel Aviv, earning his first opportunity to play in the NBA. He participated in 11 playoff games with the Bucks and averaged 4.3 minutes.
It wasn’t much. But even at the bench, or by being around such players as Giannis Antetokounmpo or Khris Middleton and living the experience of the NBA playoffs all the way to winning a title, was an invaluable trip for the 27-year-old Bryant. He absorbed the lessons from sharing a locker room with these guys and watching them compete at a championship level like a sponge and is used these teachings to perform like on a high level in the EuroLeague Final Four.
“I think so,” Bryant said when asked if the Bucks experience influeced the way he plays. “Off the court also. Just to see how these guys responded to special situations. I understood that is a long game. Take it one possession at a time, one shot at the time. And focus on defense, always.”
Bryant is ahead of accomplishing something that’s never been done by anyone before in basketball history: Become the first player who wins the NBA and EuroLeague championship in back-to-back years.
“It’s a cool stat but it has to get done, right? Bryant said. “I try not to focused on that stuff this time, I’m trying to stay focused on If it happens it would be cool but the main thing now is focusing on practice and shootaround before the Final.
To achieve an ultimate level of concentration, Bryant isn’t even paying attention to his phone.
“I kind of shoved my phone away a bit this time,” Bryant said. “Try to stay focused and not responding to anyone. I’m going to check my phone after.”