There isn’t a basketball fan on the planet who doesn’t want to see Kobe Bryant in action. Just the thought of his possible retirement upsets many fans.
Injuries have forced the “Black Mamba” to miss significant time over the last two seasons. So, until he returns, Andrew Goudelock – also known as the “Mini Mamba” – is the lone Mamba dominating.
Goudelock, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers from 2011 to 2013, has been playing excellent basketball overseas, although he admits it’s tough not being in the NBA.
“It’s frustrating being overseas and seeing a bunch of D-League players getting called up all season,” Goudelock told Basketball Insiders during a sit-down interview in Istanbul, Turkey, where he’s become a scoring sensation. “It stings because I feel like I deserve to be in the NBA, but some things are out of our control. Hopefully one day I’ll get another chance.”
Selected by the Lakers in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft, Goudelock appeared in 48 game for Los Angeles, averaging 5.6 points per game.
Though he has relocated to Europe, Goudelock still has strong memories of his time with the Lakers, specifically of Bryant cursing him out on-and-off the floor and demanding excellence.
“One of the weirdest things I experienced when playing with Kobe was how he cursed me the hell out in practice and games when I didn’t bring it,” Goudelock said. “Kobe would look straight at me and be like, ‘What the hell are you doing? I can tell you’re not f***ing serious. I could see it in your eyes. I know the difference.’ And that wasn’t his worst.”
“Every time Kobe did that, I mean I couldn’t [respond]… I was so surprised I was like, ‘You’re right.’ He’s the ultimate workaholic and knows how to get his teammates in game mode.”
Bryant was so aggressive and demanding because he wanted Goudelock to reach his full potential. Bryant was drawn to the young guard because he recognized a similar Mamba-esque demeanor in Goudelock.
“Kobe gave me the ‘Mini Mamba’ nickname and would encourage me to perform with confidence, almost to the point where I was cocky about my game,” Goudelock said. “He could tell I had a passion for the game, it was almost an unspoken understanding. Sometimes players didn’t take certain shots during a game and Kobe would turn to me like, ‘Only you and I would have taken that shot.'”
He also have plenty of fond memories of Bryant off the court.
“Kobe took the Lakers during preseason to the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas and bought the whole top floor for the team,” Goudelock recalled. “He met us there with his helicopter and was spending all kinds of money on us and let us ball out for the night.”
While the Lakers have struggled these last couple of seasons and Bryant has dealt with various injuries, Goudelock has been breaking records and collecting Most Valuable Player trophies abroad.
The 26-year-old shooting guard was crowned MVP of the VTB United League last season, averaging 20.1 points and 2.8 assists per contest. Goudelock was also named to the All-EuroCup First Team.
Last summer, Goudelock penned a guaranteed two-year agreement worth $3.8 million with Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce Ulker. He joined a roster loaded with former and future NBA talent in Jan Vesely, Semih Erden, Nemanja Bjelica and Bogdan Bogdanovic.
On November 13, 2014, “Mini Mamba” put his name in the Euroleague record book when he shot lights out in a 34-point performance. He hit 10-of-13 three-pointers in the contest, setting an all-time Euroleague record for the most made threes in a single game.
“Once I get the ball, I feel like no one can stop me,” he said. “I’ve seen every possible defense thrown at me this season.”
Though he’s back on the NBA radar, Goudelock has mastered the art of dominating overseas, cementing himself as one of the elite hired assassins. Goudelock has an NBA opt-out clause until July 25, but he isn’t holding his breath over another call-up.
“Teams tell everybody that they’re interested in them, that they like them. But when they get you, they’ll throw you to the D-League or something with the non-guaranteed contracts, or the partial-contracts, or want you to play summer league,” Goudelock said. “I’m not doing that stuff.
“Teams in the NBA jerk guys around so much to that point where you just take a step back and be like, ‘If you want me, come and get me. If you don’t want me, that’s fine. I’ll be elsewhere doing my thing.'”
Goudelock played several seasons in the D-League, having successful stints with the Los Angeles D-Fenders, Sioux Falls Skyforce and Rio Grande Valley Vipers. In 2013, he averaged 21.1 points, 5.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals and was named the D-League MVP. But he grew frustrated when he still didn’t get called up, and got tired of competing for NBA teams’ final roster spots.
“Most of the time, teams just want extra bodies,” Goudelock said. “They already have 90 percent of the roster, so basically we’re talking about two spots to fill – and that’s not a road you really want to be going down because every month they can cut you at any time and pick up somebody else.
“I witnessed the business side of the NBA from up close. My teammates were getting called up, but I won the MVP and won the championship. I was like, ‘Huh? What the hell is going on?’ I can’t even begin to get it because it’ll just give me a headache. I didn’t give up on the NBA, but I gave up trying to figure out what NBA people were thinking.”
Goudelock isn’t losing sleep over not being in the NBA. He was in the race for MVP overseas, and ended up being voted onto the All-Euroleague Second Team before posting a team-high 25 points per game on 21-of-32 shooting from the field at the Final Four against Euro champs Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow.
Goudelock’s transition from the NBA to overseas has been smooth. Coaches praise his willingness to put in extra work and his intense commitment to his team’s success. He can drop 30 or 40 points a night, but tries to do what is best for the team before all else.
“The game overseas is much more fundamental with a lot more pick-and-rolls,” he said. “The scouting is at a whole ‘nother dimension. Basketball in the NBA is more of a one-on-one game, and everyone uses their individual talent being super-tall or super-athletic – [they’re] almost freaks of nature. But in Europe, players use tactics and high basketball IQ. It’s all about the team.”
Even though Goudelock is no longer in the NBA or taking orders from Bryant, he’s thriving overseas and experiencing plenty of success.
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