HoopsHype.com Interviews

Kobe Bryant: "I enjoy the pressure of being considered the next Jordan"
by Juan Pipkin / March 7, 2002

The Lakers' perimeter defense is allowing too many points this season, what's going wrong?

Kobe Bryant: The main problem is that all teams play their best against us night in night out cause we are the champions and they try to hurt us from the perimeter cause they don't want to play down low and face Shaq. Anyway, we have struggled the most when Shaq was injured because there is not so much defensive aggressiveness when you know the Big Dog is not there to stop people driving to the basket.

A lot of people think that the Lakers are bored cause they will know how to win when it's needed. Is that true?

KB: I don't think you can say something like that. The problem is that all teams put a lot of effort playing against us and we have not been able to fit together the way we should because of injuries.

Phil Jackson and Shaquille O'Neal have already announced that the end of their career could be near, are you worried?

KB: That's an issue of concern, but I'm one of those who live day by day and I'm not going to stop thinking about that right now.

But the fact is that you didn't want to sign a contract extension offered by the Lakers this season... Can you imagine yourself playing for another team?

KB: You never know. Yes, it's true that I didn't sign, but as I have already told you this is all about not thinking so much in the future as to think in the present. I don't want to be tied up, my current contract is not going to end this season and I have time to make a decision.

Do you feel the pressure of being considered the main candidate to be the heir of Jordan as the best player ever?

KB: I enjoy the pressure of being considered the next Jordan. I like that situation -- the one I've ever wished to live since I was a child. But, obviously, it's pretty soon to start talking in those terms. I just want to win as many rings as possible.

Which aspect of your game do you need to polish the most?

KB: I think you should never quit working on any aspect of the game cause you can always make some progress. Maybe getting my teammates involved and making them better is the thing I should focus.

Other than Jordan, you are the only player averaging more than 25 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds per game. Who's the best and which are the main differences between you two?

KB: We are very similar, that's true. But he is 39 at this point and my physical conditions are at their best. I don't think you can say who's better. I leave that choice to the rest of the people. The differences? I normally put the ball on the floor and use the dribble more often. He is more of a small forward that comes off screens and creates his own shot working on the post.

Is there any chance that you may face the Wizards in the Finals?

KB: I don't think they are ready for that this season. But you never know what is going to happen in the East. It looks quite improbable to me.

Do you study the qualities of past legends?

KB: Of course, that's a key part in my training. I like to watch videos of them and use the weapons that made them so threatening.

Anyone in especial?

KB: Magic's baby-hook. That's a good shot I will use when I'm older.

Do you imagine yourself playing at 38?

KB: I don't know. I'm still too young to think about that. I have no idea (laughs).

You are focused on winning as many titles as possible and you already have two rings. Is it true that one of the most difficult things is to keep the level when you are running out of challenges?

KB: Well, I know what you mean and, yes, it's something veterans talk about. But now I do not see myself used to success. I want to win many championship rings, my goals are high and that's the challenge.

Juan Pipkin is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com.

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