HoopsHype.com Interviews

Kobe Bryant: "The truth always comes out"
by David Friedman / March 1, 2005

In the game in Cleveland (Bryant's first game back on February 13 after missing 14 games because of a severely sprained ankle) you were still getting your legs under you in terms of jumping and finishing. How much better did you feel in the game in Utah (February 15) when you went out and got 40 points?

Kobe Bryant: Oh, man, it was night and day. The game in Cleveland, that was only
the second time that I had played in like a month. So I missed a lot of easy shots, a lot of layups. Defensively I had to get my rhythm. Against Utah my legs felt great. It felt like it just came back. We've done such a good job throughout the injury-training, lifting weights, doing rehab.

What kind of exercises are you doing?

KB: It's a myriad of things. We have a great staff-obviously, we have (trainer) Gary Vitti, who treats the injury; we have (physiotherapist) Alex McKechnie, who does a lot of physical rehabilitation work; we have Joe Carbone, our strength coach. Between the three of them – and (director of athletic performance) Chip Schaefer – we have been able to devise a scheme for me to get back to full throttle.

Do you still have to ice the ankle and treat it post game more than you did before the injury?

KB: Yes. I pack it in ice and continue to keep it moving so it doesn't stiffen up. So, for example, when I'm out of the game, you'll see me constantly moving it around so it stays loose.

Do you do the exercise in which you spell out the letters of the alphabet with that foot?

KB: (eyes widen a bit in recognition) Yes. That's what I do. When I sit on the bench, that's what I do. Spell out the alphabet.

That's a great exercise for sprained ankles.

KB: Yeah. I'm glad I know my ABCs. (laughs)

THE SPIRIT OF ''76

What's your favorite dunk from the 1976 Slam Dunk Contest?

KB: Wow. There are so many of them. The one that gets replayed over and over is obviously Julius' dunk from the free throw line. I think that is the most memorable one just because it revolutionized the dunk contest. It was
just the momentum of it, of who Dr. J was and who he became, that now when you go back in time and you see that free throw line dunk it makes it that much grander.

He milked the drama of it, because he took those long strides to the other side of the court before the dunk.

KB: He worked the crowd there. He was an actor. He built up the drama and then took off, which just culminated it.

Have you seen Thompson's 360 from the left baseline?

KB: Oh, of course. Of course.

What do you think of that?

KB: I think it was sick.

FACING CHALLENGES

What was the best advice that you received when you made the jump from high school to the NBA?

KB: KG just told me to have fun. Just enjoy yourself. People are going to be pulling at you from all sides and placing expectations on you. Just block that out. Go out there and have fun.

How have you embraced the challenge of a new era in Los Angeles and the burden that has been put on your shoulders?

KB: I think that we have embraced it and we look forward to this challenge. At first it took a little while for the people of Los Angeles to get used to it because they are used to being on top for so long. But there is something about starting down at the bottom again and working your way back to the top that is really appealing to people. You put on your hard hat and go to work. I think that it is refreshing.

Is it as much of a challenge to fight for the final playoff spot as it was to fight for the championship?

KB: The challenges are in essence the same. Once you get to the top, the hard work becomes staying on top. But you have to work to get there. Sometimes it is really, really tough to get over that hump. You saw Minnesota last year was able to get over that hump and this year it is a struggle for them. It is a work in progress. You always have to be on edge. You always have to take every practice, every game, like it is your last.

It's tough. If we weren't so optimistic, we'd think that the second half of the season is going to be the absolute pits. But we look forward to this challenge. When your back is against the wall, you have no other option but to come out swinging. We have to approach every practice in an extremely detailed and extremely methodical manner.

LEARNING THE TRIANGLE

Your team is increasingly using a little more of the triangle all the time. How do you feel about the constitution of this team to run the triangle?

KB: We're doing a good job. It's tough because we're trying to learn it on the fly. You know how hard it is to learn it when you have training camp. We're doing a good job, though. Got a call from Tex (Winter) and he told us
that we're doing well. That's the biggest compliment in the world, when you get a compliment from Tex. Tex is such a great basketball mind. When he gives you a compliment it really warms up your heart.

Do you ever call him?

KB: He came down early in the season and then he came again recently, maybe it was two and a half weeks ago. We exchanged numbers. I've called him several times since then. I love Tex. If it weren't for Tex, I wouldn't look at the game or interpret the game the way that I do. The way that he teaches the game is different than any other coach that I've ever been around.

What specifically is different about it?

KB: He looks at the game in a different way. He actually teaches momentums – how to build momentums and how to break momentums. He looks at the total concept of the game and then plays it like chess. It's amazing to sit there and learn. When he teaches you something, you go out on the court and you apply that knowledge and it actually works. You start looking at him like he's Yoda.

A Jedi master.

KB: I'm telling you, it's just incredible.

Tex has always had testy exchanges with the people he's coached. When you had your testy exchanges with him people didn't quite understand that. Why is that?

KB: I don't know. It doesn't really matter what they think. It's obvious to see that when we had those exchanges, people just really blew it out of proportion. If it were true (that there is friction), Tex and I would not be as close as we are today.

So the press somehow got that distorted?

KB: Yeah, it usually shakes out that way. The truth always comes out, so I don't worry about it. I don't think about it. It's going to shake out. People who talk about me in a negative manner don't know me. They don't know me. If they had a chance to be around me and kick it with me and get to know me, then they can judge. I think that will come out as years go by. People will see how I truly am and what I'm truly about and everything will be all right.

David Friedman is a Contributing Editor at Suite101.com in charge of the topic Basketball Spotlight. His work has also appeared in Basketball Digest and Sports Collectors Digest. He wrote the chapter on the NBA in the 1970s for the anthology Basketball in America: From the Playgrounds to Jordan's Game and Beyond (Haworth Press, 2005). The interview was made during the All-Star Weekend.

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