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Mentoring Mamba shares what he knows

Lakers rookie D'Angelo Russell has a mentor in Kobe Bryant this season. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

HONOLULU -- Los Angeles Lakers rookie guard D'Angelo Russell was eight months and 11 days old when Kobe Bryant made his NBA debut.

"D'Angelo could probably be my son," the 37-year-old Bryant quipped after the Lakers' practice Saturday at the University of Hawaii at Mona's Stan Sheriff Center.

The 19-year-old Russell isn't alone, though. The Lakers are populated with several young promising players, including 20-year-old forward Julius Randle and 23-year-old guard Jordan Clarkson.

While a generational gap no doubt exists between Bryant and the team's fledgling trio that it hopes will be its future core, Bryant is doing his best to help bridge that gap.

"The universal language is the game," Bryant said. "These guys, they're really, really thirsty for knowledge."

And so after practices, several players have been gathering, whether back at the team hotel or elsewhere, just to talk.

"The other day, we sat around and talked for about 2 1/2 hours," Bryant said. "They just wanted to know some of the things that I've been through, some of the things that I've learned, some of the things that I can help them with. The game really connects us."

What do they chat about?

"The process and the journey and things to look out for," Bryant said. "Not so much tactically about the game, more so emotional -- kind of what separates good players from great players. What happens when players come in, first pick, second pick, third pick, and some go on to have great careers and some just fall by the wayside. And why do you think that is? What do you see?"

When asked if players are responding to what he has shared, Bryant said that isn't exactly the point.

"It's not really responding to me," he said. "It's just talking and sharing some of my stories and they want to know about how I did it. I'm just very frank and candid with them. I think it sinks in. It's important that they find their own way. I can only provide them with some of the knowledge and information that I have."

Bryant said he had hoped to be in this position one day.

"The universal language is the game. These guys, they're really, really thirsty for knowledge." Kobe Bryant

"I always felt like it would be fun," Bryant said. "It's just, when I was younger, who was I able to pass knowledge off to? I’d do camps and clinics for kids that are 10-12 years old. They'll listen. But who's going to listen to a 20-year-old? So now, my peers are more willing to listen because of everything that I've been through."

Bryant said he realized other NBA players looked up to him around 2008, and although he had plenty of knowledge about the game from his father, Joe, who played in the NBA, Bryant recalled learning from veterans when he was a young player as well.

"When I came in the league, I was surrounded by golden greats," Bryant said. "I remember '98 in the All-Star Game in New York, it was like a kid in a candy store. Because I had Michael [Jordan] that I was playing up against and I had always picked his brain for stuff, but then in the locker room, I was next to Gary Payton, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton, Charles Barkley. So I'd go around just asking everybody questions."

For now, Bryant says he enjoys being around those younger players.

"They're hungry," he said. "They want to be great."

Although many years separate Russell, the Lakers' No. 2 overall draft pick in 2015, and Bryant, the game is one subject that will help connect them.

"It's not listening to the same music, it's not going out to a club, I’m too f---ing old to do that s--t anyway," Bryant said. "But it's just talking, being in his ear whenever he needs it and however I can help."