Despite being injured, Kobe Bryant is still the Laker who most moves the needle when it comes to fans. Despite the Lakers’ awful record, his season ending injury, and his, compared to previous standards, sub-par play, he was still voted into the All-Star game as a starter and the release of the 10th iteration of his signature shoe was still quite the event. So, when Kobe goes on a bit of a media blitz, it’s sure to catch everyone’s attention.
On Monday evening, “Kobe the Interview” aired on NBA TV. The interview is well worth your time, if only for the career retrospective and insight Kobe provides on recovering from injuries, the longevity of his career, and capturing of the special moments that have made Kobe the player he is. NBA.com has a brief summary up here, but it’d be worth it for you to search your cable guide and see if/when it will be re-aired.
If “the interview” wasn’t enough to satiate your thirst for Kobe, you’re in luck. On Tuesday morning a sit-down between Kobe and Chuck Klosterman was released by GQ Magazine. Even more than the NBA TV piece, the interview with Klosterman gave us an unfiltered look at Kobe and offered some fantastic quotes that capture the Kobe we all want to see more of. He was introspective, smart, funny, and unabashedly honest. The entire piece is worth your time, but here are a few of my favorite parts:
On the perception of Shaq being lazy:
“He had years where he was lazy. But during those three championships we won? To say he was a beast would be an understatement. To say I didn’t learn things from him that I still use to this day would be a disservice. To be fair, I think what happened is that, as you get older, your body starts breaking down, and you have to really love the process in order to get through that. Like, right now, I hurt. My ankle joints, my knee joints. My back. My thighs are sore. But for him, with his big toe and his knee, it became very hard for him to get up in the morning and push through those things. He might not have been as willing to do those things at the time, and I wasn’t thrilled about that.”
On whether he shoots too much:
“I’ve shot too much from the time I was eight years old,” Bryant says. “But ‘too much’ is a matter of perspective. Some people thought Mozart had too many notes in his compositions. Let me put it this way: I entertain people who say I shoot too much. I find it very interesting. Going back to Mozart, he responded to critics by saying there were neither too many notes or too few. There were as many as necessary.”
On whether he has “friends” and if he is actively choosing to not have friends:
“Well, yes and no. I have friends. But being a “great friend” is something I will never be. I can be a good friend. But not a great friend. A great friend will call you every day and remember your birthday. I’ll get so wrapped up in my shit, I’ll never remember that stuff. And the people who are my friends understand this, and they’re usually the same way. You gravitate toward people who are like you. But the kind of relationships you see in movies—that’s impossible for me. I have good relationships with players around the league. LeBron and I will text every now and then. KG and I will text every now and then. But in terms of having one of those great, bonding friendships—that’s something I will probably never have. And it’s not some smug thing. It’s a weakness. It’s a weakness.”
Again, there are several great quotes from Klosterman’s piece and he does a great job (as he often does) of capturing his subject in a way that makes you want even more.
Lastly, our old friend Kurt Helin also published a long-form piece on Kobe that you should give a read to. Focusing mostly on Kobe in the late stages of his career and his battle with injuries, Kurt got some good quotes from Kevin McHale on what it is like giving it one last go as your body breaks down on a team that is not of the standard you might be used to:
“Eventually, it just catches up to you, man,” said Hall of Fame player and current Rockets coach Kevin McHale. “I’ve been blessed to be in this league a long time, and Kobe’s a great player, but I’ve seen other great players, but when your time’s up your time’s up. It’s too bad, but it happens to everybody.”
McHale is as good an end-of-career comparison as you might find for Kobe.
McHale played through a number of ankle injuries (that required surgery) and debilitating back pain his last few seasons. He could have retired when Larry Bird did in the summer of 1992, but McHale came back for one more go around, doing so on a team that was clearly not a contender.
There was a simple reason for that.
“I wanted to go out playing, and we made it to a playoff series and we lost but I went out playing as hard as I possibly could. I found a little magic in a bottle for a couple weeks and played pretty good, then that was the end of it,” said McHale, who averaged 19.6 points per game on 58 percent shooting during that first-round playoff loss to Charlotte in 1993. “It’s hard. You’re used to being able to do things, you’re used to your body responding, and if you’re a good player you’re used to your body bouncing back and doing a lot of stuff. You never really thought it could not hold up, but at some point it goes down.”
If nothing else, these interviews and pieces on Kobe reinforce the fact that the end truly is near. While Kobe says he can play another 5 years (which, if you ask me, is hyperbole from Kobe as he feeds his own legend of work ethic and overcoming odds), he’s very upfront that he’s very unlikely to play beyond his current contract. I, for one, will miss him. Not just for the all the highlights and great basketball moments he’s provided, but for the #kobequotes too. Because as he’s opened up to fans and the media over the last years, we finally start to get a better sense of who he is as a person.
Few know how to give you so much and still leave you wanting more. But Kobe Bryant is one of them.