CLEVELAND - It's no secret that Kyrie Irving has long idolized Kobe Bryant. The now-former Cleveland Cavaliers guard even has an upcoming shoe collaboration with the Los Angeles Lakers legend.
Irving, however, isn't the only active NBA player Bryant has fostered a relationship with. And on Thursday, he turned his attention toward one of the players Irving was just traded for -- new Cleveland Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas.
Throughout a series of Instagram posts on his official feed, Bryant challenged various athletes and celebrities to accomplish different feats. The stream started with a post aimed at Thomas, who he challenged to make first-team All-NBA in the coming season.
Last season, Thomas earned All-NBA second-team honors after averaging 28.9 points per game while leading the Boston Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference. Playing alongside LeBron James, his averages will likely take a hit, although playing on a team like the Cavs also possesses the potential to raise his profile.
Like Irving, Thomas has maintained a relationship with Bryant, which has only grown stronger since the former Lakers guard's retirement at the end of the 2015-16 season. Last season, Thomas routinely wore the "Kobe AD" Nike shoe and when his sister tragically passed away in a car crash in April, Bryant reached out to the 2-time All-Star.
"We've been in communication the last couple weeks since my sister passed," Thomas told reporters in May. "He's been a big help since Game 2. We actually watched film together on the phone for 30 minutes. He was going over my film with me and teaching the things that he looks at when he watches film."
Bryant's help seemingly paid off, as on May 3, Thomas scored 53 points in a Celtics win over the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Now Bryant wants to see his pupil -- and the newest Cleveland Cavalier -- take the next step.
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