Kobe Bryant interview: The best of the rest

June, 4, 2013
6/04/13
11:16
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive


Kobe Bryant shuffled into a conference room on the second floor of the Los Angeles Lakers' practice facility Monday with crutches under his arm and special Nike "Medical Mambas" on his feet and sat down for a near 30-minute interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com.

The discussion included a wide range of topics, including Bryant's thoughts on his rehab, Dwight Howard and Phil Jackson comparing him to Michael Jordan that have already been covered on the site.

Here's the best of the rest:

On tearing his Achilles tendon against Golden State ...

"I haven’t watched it, but just being in the moment, I knew what happened. I knew that was it. I was done. Walking back to the bench, I tried to figure out where I could put pressure on my foot to try to minimize the pain and just try to get through the these last two minutes of the game. I tried walking on my heel and I felt like that was going to work, believe it or not, for a little bit and then it kind of just feels like the tendon in your Achilles is just rolling up your calf and I thought, ‘You know what? Probably not a good idea, but I got to shoot these two free throws.’ These last two minutes, whatever it is left, all this work that we’ve done to get to this point, I got to step up and knock these down."

On where those free throws rank with the best shots of his career ...

"I’d say in terms of a moment, it’s right up there at the top because of what we went through as a team -- all the injuries we went through as a team. For me, I just felt like, just go up there and make them. You can’t let your team down. If you’re going to shoot them, you better make sure you make them. That’s where my focus was. And my teammates, I don’t think any of them really knew how severe it was. I looked at Steve. I think Steve was the one who committed the foul and I just looked at him like, ‘Dude, that’s it. I’m done.’"

On the size of his hands compared to Jordan's ...

"Michael was blessed with massive hands and Dr. J (Julius Erving) as well and some of these other players. I wasn’t. I have big hands, but (Jordan and Erving) can literally pick up the ball like an orange, so I’ve had to do things to strengthen my hands, strengthen my forearms to make sure I have that grip to be able to do it. They obviously had the natural capabilities to do it. I had to work to get that strength to be able to do it."

On which young players he appreciates ...

"There’s a few of them. I really like KD (Kevin Durant) quite a lot and what he does and how he plays and how he works. There are several other young players I really enjoy, (Russell) Westbrook being another one and they just both happen to be on the same team. James Harden, who is now in Houston and Carmelo Anthony, obviously, we’ve had a long relationship. But, just as a whole, players who get injured and go down: David Lee -- I felt it was my responsibility to reach out to him and make sure that he was alright. Harrison Barnes, he’s like a little brother to me. There’s guys in the league that I definitely look out for and try to steer them in the right direction."

On Tim Duncan ...

"There’s all this competition about who does this generation belong to, in terms of Tim and myself, and I enjoy hearing those conversations. I think what he’s done, I think he’s a great example for kids who grow up playing the game and understanding and learning the fundamentals and the work ethic.

"This last summer he’s done things with his body in terms of monitoring his diet and changing up some of his training and he’s come back in phenomenal shape at a lower weight and you can see the results. As a competitor, that’s what you want to see. People get caught up a lot in the results and this, that and the other, but I really can appreciate from afar what players do to get to that level."

On his level of admiration for Gregg Popovich ...

"Huge. I don’t understand how he does it. Just year after year, getting guys to buy into the system and plugging in the supporting cast around Manu (Ginobili), Tony (Parker) and Tim just year after year after year. We’ve been saying the Spurs have been done for how long now? As a Laker fan, we thought we put the nail in the coffin back in ’08. Like, that was it, and they just keep coming back."

On his level of interaction with Jackson ...

"We talk all the time. It’s really blossomed into an incredible relationship outside of the game. Just talking about a myriad of things, so, we’ve been talking quite a bit."

On his candid quotes to the media ...

"These are answers that I have in my head most of the time throughout my career, I just don’t say them. So like I’ll be getting interviewed, and I’ll laugh or smirk to myself as I’m thinking of these responses, now I just have the cojones to say them. It’s like you get to that point where you’re close to the rocking chair and you just really don’t care anymore. I’m one of those old guys sitting on the porch just letting it rip."

On his "I'd rather be perceived as a winner than a good teammate" quote he wrote on Facebook ...

"Well, you share it. Because when you win, you share it. Everybody is happy. So, I’d much rather have a relationship where, put it this way: You want to have a really close team, you guys are all friends, you guys have a good time, you guys enjoy each other’s company. You get to the Finals, you lose. This happens all the time. You never get to win the championship. Now, you fast forward 20 years from now and you guys are sitting back at whatever get-together function that you’re having and you guys finally get a chance to reconnect because when you guys retire, you all go separate ways even though you guys were all buddies when you played, and you got to sit around telling old stories about how you were this close. ‘Oh, we were this close. Oh we were this close. But, we had a great time though!’

"And when you fast forward years from now and it’s me, Lamar (Odom), (Trevor) Ariza and all these guys and we pushed each other. We had some really contentious moments, but that got us to be champions and we’re close because of everything that we went through. So, you go 20 years from now, we’re sitting back, laughing, enjoying each other’s company because we really love each other. There’s a brotherhood that’s been formed there, and we won. I would rather have that, than that other one."

On how the Lakers grew from a Finals loss to Boston in 2008 ...

"When we lost to Boston in 2008, we had one of those happy-go-lucky teams and we got to the Finals and we ran into a buzz saw. So, the next season and every season after that, we really challenged each other. We didn’t hold anything back. If I didn’t like what you were doing, I’d tell you. And vice versa. And there would be moments where we didn’t like each other very much, but we understood that we were doing this for a common goal and when you have that, I think you have more respect and more admiration for the person sitting across from you."

On how he changed after that Finals loss to Boston ...

"I think it was just me figuring out how I want to lead. It was a different role for me. I had to put on a different hat after the me and Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal) era. You kind of had to figure out the balance. Me kind of being a taskmaster when Shaq was here and him being the easy-going guy, in 2008 I went too far on the opposite end of the spectrum. We wound up having a team that wasn’t emotionally tough enough or contentious enough to take down these Celtics."

On how the NBA has changed since he entered it in 1996 ...

"It’s a smaller game. It’s a much, much smaller game in terms of the style that everybody plays and playing with a spread floor and really minimizing spot play. When I first came into the league it was much, much different. You still had (Patrick) Ewing in there. You still had (Hakeem) Olajuwon in there. You had Shaq in there. You had Alonzo (Mourning) in there. David Robinson. Those are five 7-footers I just named you off the top of my head. I can’t name you five 7-footers off the top of my head that are playing right now. It’s just amazing."

On what type of player he'll be in 2013-14 ...

"You have to be able to adapt. During this last season, I was able to find areas to adjust my game to help us win, in terms of being more of an assist guy. You got to pick up certain areas and a lot of it depends on just the team that you have and the guys that you have around you. I’m more than comfortable just sitting back and scoring 21, 22 points or whatever and getting 10, 11 assists whatever the case might be. More than comfortable with that. It’s just a matter of the pieces that you have around you and what you can do to elevate everybody else."

On Jackson saying Bryant's competitive nature ends when he leaves the basketball court ...

"No, it’s not accurate. This is what I’d say, I’m not going to compete at something that I’m not good at. Like, if you’re a great ping pong player, I know I’m average and I see you play and I’m like, ‘Oh, he’d kick my ass,’ I’m not going to play you. I’m not going to do it. Nor am I going to invest my time to figure out how to do it, to beat you. I’m not. I got other stuff that I can think about. I play to my strengths."

On if he thinks about what the best-case scenario will be for him when he returns to the court from his Achilles injury ...

"Every day. I envision it every day. You have to. You have to be able to see it first."

On what Kobe Bryant we will see next season ...

"Hopefully the Kobe that used to have an afro that can’t grow an afro anymore. That will be a good day."

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0