The 11-time NBA champion was one of the biggest leaders in league history, winning everything he could with the C's, always knowing how to deal with his teammates in certain situations. Kobe learned that and credited Russell for mentoring him on that aspect, revealing a pivotal factor to his success after Shaquille O'Neal left the Los Angeles Lakers.
In an old interview, KB24 talked about the impact of Russell on his career. When asked what he learned from Bill, Kobe said:
"Tactically speaking, he said, 'when I played, I could score the ball, I could handle the ball, I could pass the ball, but it was really important, in order for us to win, I had to look at my teammates and say ok, there's other players here that do that better. Therefore, I must allow them to do that. And what I do best is defend and rebound, so I'm gonna completely focus on that, let [Bob] Cousy handle the ball, let Sam [Jones] be the shooter, [John] Havlicek be the shooter.' I thought that was a very insightful thing that I used when I was able to win those two championships post-Shaq."
As he admitted, that really helped Kobe. He adopted that mentality and led his Lakers to three more NBA Finals, winning two championships in the process.
They had an incredible relationship, and the biggest proof of that happened after Kobe died last year. Bill, the biggest idol in Boston Celtics history, showed up at the Staples Center wearing Kobe's No. 24 jersey in the ultimate sign of respect.