- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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At some point in the last couple of seasons, Kobe Bryant started saving away the fresh pair of sneakers he wears every game instead of giving them out to fans or locker room attendants because he says he's "become sentimental in my old age."
As a veteran with 17 seasons in the NBA and as 34-year-old man who has spent literally half his life in the league, Bryant has also become quite comfortable with discussing the not-too-distant end to his sterling career.
There are moments almost game to game where Bryant finds himself setting some sort of record, giving his shoes more meaning. Just last week he passed Oscar Robertson to assume the No. 5 spot on the list for most amount of 30-point games in NBA history.
While Bryant is tracking his history with his shoe collection, he's making history with his shoes too. Bryant met with a small assembly of reporters at the launch event for his Nike Kobe VIII signature shoe Thursday and unveiled the lightest basketball sneaker in the history of the company -- just 9.6 ounces, nearly half the weight of his original Nike Zoom Kobe I (17.0 ounces) that came out in 2006.
Following the unveiling, Bryant sat down for an interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com from the 32nd floor of the AT&T Building in downtown L.A. to discuss his new shoe but also take a look back at his lasting legacy to the game.
"Just by observation of some of the younger players that I face now, they wind up having a similar mentality that I had," Bryant said when asked how he has changed the sport during his time as a pro. "Because growing up, they were obviously watching me when I was 21, 22 years old and just kind of by any means necessary get things done, not afraid of the big moment and extremely competitive. They all have these work ethics now and most of them get up at five in the morning to train like I do. It’s pretty cool."
Bryant also touched on a variety of subjects, including the whirlwind start of the season having three different head coaches in the first 15 games:
"It’s been a little different, to say the least. But, it is what it is. You can’t be one to make excuses. You have to figure out how we’re going to get there. Our destination is to win a championship and it’s to get there by any means necessary. So, whatever it is we have to solve, we just have to solve it."
On missing out on an opportunity with Phil Jackson:
"You always want to kind of reconnect because you’ve had that relationship with him forever. It’s the same thing with Steve (Nash) with Coach (Mike) D’Antoni. They’ve had that relationship. So, it’s always a part of me that misses that, but I’m very thankful and very happy for the years that we’ve spent."
And on how winning his second gold medal in London last summer can help fuel his quest for championship No. 6:
"It just continues to fuel your appetite. You have one bite of the cookie and you want to finish it, you know what I mean? So, it continues to fuel the appetite and continues to fuel my drive even more."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
2dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne