In a detailed column tracking Ben McLemore’s tough NBA journey, Zach Lowe explains how Kobe Bryant encouraged him before his time with the Houston Rockets.
Ben McLemore‘s journey in the NBA has been about as tough as it gets. From injury-plagued seasons, uncertainty about his future and the firing of Mike Malone (whom he had a close relationship with), there was a time where he thought he might not be in the NBA any longer. As Zach Lowe shared Tuesday morning, Kobe Bryant shared some words of encouragement to the Houston Rockets guard last spring.
In the ESPN story, Lowe shares how McLemore worked with his trainer in several Los Angeles facilities, including Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy over the summer. The future Hall of Famer reportedly was shocked to see Ben no longer in the NBA and told the 26-year-old to stay ready because his “time was gonna come.” As McLemore told Lowe, just those words helped him regain some self-confidence.
Fortunately, the Rockets were the first to come calling in July, eventually signing him to a two-year, partially-guaranteed contract. While his role likely wasn’t going to be major to begin with, injuries to Gerald Green and Eric Gordon forced Mike D’Antoni to play him more, which has paid off so far.
McLemore is averaging a career-high 2.4 made threes per game and his 9.8 points per game is the highest he’s had since the 2014-15 season. With James Harden and Russell Westbrook attacking the basket so often, his improved outside shooting has proven to be extremely valuable as well. The seventh-year guard had a seven-game stretch where he averaged 16.1 points on 37 percent shooting from downtown, which included a 28-point outburst against the Toronto Raptors.
After struggling to see the court last season in a reunion with the Sacramento Kings, the fact that McLemore stuck with it and retooled his game over the summer shows a lot about his character and desire to compete. At 26-years-old, Ben knew he had the talent to still play a big role in the league, and his hard work is now paying off for Mike D’Antoni and the Rockets.
When a five-time NBA champion and 18-time NBA All-Star tells you your time is coming, you’d be wise to listen. Luckily for the Rockets, McLemore took those words to heart.