Thomas Bryant is a big man who wears an even bigger smile. He loves the “Rush Hour” movies (particularly 2 and 3 over the original) and his Green Bay Packers.
Above all that, he loves playing basketball — as obviously seen during the Lakers’ run to the Summer League title in July.
Bryant was a spring of energy every time he stepped on the court in Las Vegas, setting screens, running the floor and protecting the rim.
But his fire was on greater display in between the whistles, as he constantly fed off the pro-Lakers crowd by screaming and flexing after successful plays.
“I’ve always had that energy installed in me,” Bryant says. “Nobody ever had to put that in me. I knew I always played the game with love and passion. I just love to run and get up and down the court.”
Bryant tries to make his high-energy play contagious. When he’s on the floor, one of his goals is to give off an equal amount of spark to all of his teammates.
And, despite playing a more mobile game than most centers, he prides himself on still having fuel left to spare.
“The passion is just always gonna be there,” he says. “That’s just my thing. Just running up and down the court — that’s my thing as well. I never want to be tired out there on the court.”
But in his first offseason as a Laker, Bryant may have finally met someone with an equally impressive amount of energy: 90-year-old coaching legend Bill Bertka.
A 44-year member of the Lakers organization, Bertka has trained legendary big men like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal.
He continues to work with the Lakers’ current players and was a key catalyst in Ivica Zubac’s development last year. Now, Bertka and Bryant have already formed a connection, working on post moves, reading defenses and more.
“It helps a lot out there when you’re a rookie trying to transition into this NBA lifestyle,” says Bryant, who was initially shocked by the breadth of Bertka’s basketball knowledge. “It feels good when he comes up to you and says, ‘You’re doing a pretty good job.’ … It really helps build your confidence up.”
With his natural energy and a legendary mentor, there is only one thing that slows Bryant down these days: L.A. traffic.
It’s certainly more than he’s used to after two years of playing hoops in Bloomington, Indiana, for the IU Hoosiers.
“Here in L.A. you’ve got traffic when you’re trying to drive home at 12 o’clock in the afternoon,” he laughs. “Like, people, where are y’all going?”
Fortunately for Bryant, the drive is worth it when it comes to working out at the Lakers’ new, state-of-the-art practice facility.
A big draw of the UCLA Health Training Center is the bone-chilling cryo chamber. This piece of equipment can help Bryant and co. recover from their workouts faster (even if there’s “no way” it’s as cold as a Bloomington winter).
“It’s like two or three minutes of pure pain,” he says. “But when you get out it’s like, ‘Whoo all right, I’m ready to work out again!”
Not much is stopping the high-energy 20-year-old from getting back into the gym for more.
He’s even down when the veterans decide it’s time for a little bit of country music in the weight room. In fact, after his time in Bloomington, he’s come to embrace it.
“You’re just like, ‘Man, turn this off!’” Bryant said. “Then you keep hearing it, you start nodding your head to it. Next thing you know, you start singing the song. You’re like, ‘Oh, I know this song. Yeah, this is a hit right here!’”