Byron Scott always saw something special in Kobe Bryant

New Lakers Coach Byron Scott speaks during Tuesday's news conference.

There was once an 18-year-old who scored 24 points against the Golden State Warriors, a kid trying to make his way on one of the most influential franchises of all time.

"He has no idea," Byron Scott said back in 1997, "He's just playing and having fun and enjoying himself. He knows he wants to win a championship. But I don't think he knows all the stuff that goes with it."

The "he" would be Kobe Bryant, who had all the talent and all the desire but needed a few years to turn that into the first of five championships he would win with the Lakers.
Scott was a 35-year-old shooting guard near the end of his career when he re-signed with the Lakers for one last symbolic season before calling it quits on a 14-year run as an NBA player. The Lakers had obtained Bryant in a trade with Charlotte two months earlier, in July 1996.

Now they'll be reunited as Scott becomes the team's head coach.

When Bryant was starting out in the NBA, he always gravitated to older teammates such as Scott and Derek Harper. He spoke fondly of Scott when asked about him recently, referring to him as a mentor and, yes, a guy who made the rookie go on doughnut runs for him.

Scott seemed to like Bryant too.

"He is just like one of the guys," Scott said back then. "We remember his age at times. But a lot of times, you forget."

Now they're on the Lakers again, this time Bryant near the end of his playing days and Scott trying to resurrect his coaching career.

Bryant is welcoming it.

"We've had a tremendously close relationship throughout the years," he said three weeks ago when it became apparent that Scott was the team's preferred candidate. "I've always been a fan of his."