- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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I covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time during my interview with Kobe Bryant at the Nike Kobe 9 Elite launch event on Wednesday. Most of it was captured on video here (his thoughts on the final 230 games of his career and ESPN.com's No. 25 NBA ranking for him) or in writing here (the remaining hurdles in his rehab process).
The rest of it was pretty compelling in its own right, particularly Bryant's talking about the secretive "blackout" workouts he has been going through in recent weeks to shape up before his return to game action.
Pau Gasol previously said that Bryant "had to" have been doing some extra work behind the scenes, away from his teammates and the media, before he made his return to practice nearly three weeks ago, and Bryant has offered up clues here and there through social media, thanking Georgetown University on Twitter for hosting one of his sessions while the team was on its East Coast trip.
Bryant pulled back the veil a bit with me Wednesday.
"My training has no time restrictions in terms of when I do them," Bryant said. "I can do them at 2 o’clock in the morning, 3 o’clock, it doesn’t matter. You just got to do them. The blackout is very intense. It’s a huge commitment. It’s 6-in-the-morning stuff and then take the kids to school and then go do another session with weights and shooting and practice, and then after that do some more practice. It’s an ongoing thing, and throughout all of that you have to take care of your body and take care of the knickknack injuries that may arise. It’s intense, but it’s fun."
Bryant backed up this story by telling reporters Friday that he had planned on going through multiple workouts on his own the next couple of days while the team is in Sacramento as he continues to work toward a return.
Some other points we covered included:
• Bryant on fans' questioning his $48.5 million contract extension: "Fans have the right to have those concerns. I urge caution in thinking that they know more about cap than the Lakers' management does in terms of what they can and can’t do. But we sat down and discussed this. This is something that was important to me, being able to find the balance between something that’s fair from a business perspective as well as winning. Because as athletes, we have to wear both hats. You have to. You can’t trade one for the other. But we sat down and they went through Option A, Option B, Option C, and I wanted to know all of them and feel very comfortable with that."
• Bryant on whether the Lakers have a championship plan in place: "For sure. Oh, for sure. We’re not just making decisions blindly. I don’t, and they don’t either, for sure."
• Bryant on going to a high-top sneaker after his previous five signature models were low-tops: "I think it was time to innovate a little more. It’s very easy; we’ve had a lot of success having a low-cut product, low-cut shoes. But that doesn’t mean we just rest on that. So now, how do we improve upon that? So, looking at [Manny] Pacquiao’s boot and boxing boots and looking at how they’re high -- I wouldn’t call them a high-top, man, they’re really high -- I felt like it would be a nice challenge to give to Nike to see if we can create the same product for basketball players, but the product ... I want it to still keep the same weight, I want it to be extremely light and I want it to move with the foot. I don’t want it to be a high-top that’s just a restrictive one."
• Bryant on considering Dr. Jerry Buss, Michelangelo and Michael Jackson as "muses" for the input he offered into his new sneaker, as well as for the Nike "Prelude Pack" that is re-releasing his previous signature Kobe 1 through 8 shoes in new colorways: "All of these people have inspired me, and it’s kind of like an homage to the things that I’ve learned from them throughout my career and trying to kind of integrate that aesthetically into the product."