Los Angeles Lakers Guard Kobe Bryant last Thursday hosted “Kobe Up Close,” which was a one-on-one televised interview with late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel at the Nokia Theatre located at L.A Live. The entire effort was to raise financial support for the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Sports Spectacular. that each in conjunction work toward ending homelessness and helping the under-served in the Los Angeles community.
In this one-hour interview Bryant answered questions from Kimmel and fans in attendance covering an array of topics from Chris Paul’s trade to the Lakers, where he might have attended college, his thoughts on Dwight Howard, to his pre-draft workout for the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers.
So in an interview chock-full of interesting information here are the five best quotes from Bryant (via the AXS TV telecast):
1. “Dwight is a great kid. We have different perspectives on what it takes to win and what it takes to be successful.”
This is very telling of Bryant and his relationship with the three-time defensive player of the year. It was widely known that the two did not necessarily see eye to eye in many aspects and this only underlines the differences that lied between both players’ mentality.
It was reported that Bryant had told Howard during the Lakers’ free agent pitch meeting in July to the big man that he would show him how to become a winner and Howard immediately shot down it by stating that it never happened. The seven-time All-Star selection responded by claiming he was already a winner because he has been in the league longer than an average NBA player.
The bottom line is that Howard doesn’t share the same mindset that Bryant has and to add insult to injury he called him a “kid” when he is a nine-year veteran and is only eight years younger than the 34-year-old Bryant. Ouch.
2. “I don’t know if I’ll be ready for opening night. I really don’t know. I know I’m really, really ahead of schedule.”
Bryant is currently steadily working his way back from torn Achilles surgery he had in May and there have been several reports that he is far ahead of schedule and may be ready for the season opener on October 29 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The 15-time All-Star’s uncertainty about his status for opening night puts a little bit of a dark cloud over that possibility. One thing to notice from Bryant’s quote is that he is unsure about his return and never mentions that he will not be able to suit up for that game.
Bryant is clearly rehabbing as quickly and safely as possible to make it back before the season begins, so do not put it past the Black Mamba that he will not be on the court for the first game of regular season.
If there is one thing with Bryant is that never doubt him, because he will inevitably find some way to prove the skeptics wrong.
3. “It never bothered me that people said, ‘You only won championships because you’re playing with Shaq.’ It bothered me when he said it. I had to prove that I could win without him.”
This response from Bryant is not much of surprise as the two have had their share of difficult times with each other for years even after Shaquille O’Neal departure from the Lakers via a trade to the Miami Heat during the 2004 offseason.
It is believable that Kobe did not have a problem with others saying he would not win a championship without the Diesel but to hear it straight from his mouth set off a mountain of motivation for Bryant. This was evident after he won his second championship in 2010 post-O’Neal, when he responded to question from a member of the media in the postgame interview about how this fifth championship felt and his immediate response with a smirk on his face was “I got one more than Shaq.”
O’Neal’s comments only provided wood to the fire of Bryant’s motivation,which it is well-known that he draws his motivation from wherever it may come, and with O’Neal’s it proved to be the tipping point of it all.
4. “Legally speaking, yes. David Stern speaking, no.” (When asked about whether Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul should currently be a Laker)
Bryant’s response and anecdote on Paul calling him to confirm the trade and the corresponding block of the deal by the league office shed some insight on how the deal went down. The commentary that Bryant provided on the behalf of Chris Paul only showed the point guard’s excitement for the possibility of joining the Lakers and the disappointment and anger after the trade was denied by NBA commissioner David Stern.
What this also shows that Bryant “legally speaking” still thinks that Chris Paul should be a Laker, which technically is correct as the three teams involved in the deal did agree upon a trade that had the Lakers sending away value players in Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom to land the All-Star point guard.
Bryant may never forget the vetoed trade but he will get over if he gets what he desires the most and that is his sixth championship. It just falls under the old adage that winning cures all.
5. Kimmel: “Are you certain that you’ll be a Laker for life?” Bryant: “Yeah.”
With a simple and short answer Bryant just reassured what many Lakers fans and NBA fans across the league already knew. It just a matter if he is willing to take a huge pay cut next summer to help land another superstar player like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, or possibly even both.
The bottom line is that actions speak louder than words. In the 2014 offseason we will see if his actions prove his loyalty and commitment to the franchise and if he has the willingness to take a hit to the wallet in order to increase his chances of winning another title.
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Bob Garcia IV
Bob Garcia is a sports journalist from Southern California. He was a reporter for the award-winning newspaper, The Daily Sundial, at California State University, Northridge. You can follow him on Twitter, @BGarcia90.
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