What was expected? Consider what Bryant experienced on his farewell tour during his final season with the Lakers in 2015-16. Teammates, team officials and opponents did not just shower Bryant with praise. Some of them also shared their misgivings. “ ‘I don’t know what you want to do when you retire,’ ” Bryant recited. “ ‘You’re going to go through a state of depression. You’re going to have an identity crisis.’ These are all things that were said to me because people were genuinely concerned.” Nearly four years later, the 41-year-old Bryant seems just fine.
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Consider what Bryant experienced on his farewell tour during his final season with the Lakers in 2015-16. Teammates, team officials and opponents did not just shower Bryant with praise. Some of them also shared their misgivings. “ ‘I don’t know what you want to do when you retire,’ ” Bryant recited. “ ‘You’re going to go through a state of depression. You’re going to have an identity crisis.’ These are all things that were said to me because people were genuinely concerned.”
As the Golden State Warriors embark on a quest for a third consecutive NBA title, they do so with a new perspective provided by an unlikely source. “When we had the preseason game in Vegas, I saw Kobe,” Draymond Green told ESPN earlier this season. “I’m like, ‘How is retirement?’ He said, ‘Draymond, it is f—ing incredible.’ He said, ‘It’s the best thing.””
“He left feeling like, ‘I gave y’all every f—ing thing I had and that’s it,'” Green continued “So no, [Kobe is] not sitting in retirement like, ‘Man, I wish I can go be out there.’ No, he’s on to the next thing because [he] gave that one thing everything [he] had. And I think it will be very similar with this team. Whenever that point comes, we’re going to know that we gave it everything we got and you move on. But you feel good about moving on. You’re not sick about moving on.”
Definitively shutting down any and all rumors of him returning to play basketball, Kobe Bryant sat down for an interview on the Rich Eisen Show to reveal that he will “never come back to the game.” He didn’t mince his words during the interview, making sure everyone gets the idea. “I’m here to show people we (athletes) can do much more than that,” he said.
Explaining why he doesn’t plan on ever returning to basketball, he said, “When I retired, everybody was saying, ‘He’s too competitive. He’s not going to know what to do with himself. He’s going to have to come back.’ I took that as a personal challenge of them thinking I’m this one-dimensional person. That all I know is to dribble the ball, shoot the ball, play basketball and compete at that level.”
Tania Ganguli: Kobe says former players were checking in on him as he retired to see if he’d be ok. One gave advice on how to cope with the post-playing career depression. “I’m like what the f—?” he said. “I’m good. … The most important thing is finding what you love to do.”
Kobe Bryant will add another distinction to his Hall of Fame career on Monday, when the Los Angeles Lakers — a franchise with no shortage of all-time greats in its history — will recognize both eras of his incredible 20-year run by retiring Nos. 8 and 24. Just like that, one man will own two of the Lakers’ 11 retired jerseys. “He’s turned himself into a folktale. And it’s a great folktale,” Kyrie Irving told Yahoo Sports. “He’s like the abominable snowman that you can actually see in person. Almost like people are unsure if he’s approachable or not, but he’s an open book when you go and talk to him. It’s awesome to know that one of the greats to ever do it is taking the time to really give you knowledge that is about furthering your career and achieve greatness that you’ve dreamt of as a kid. He does it strictly for progressing the culture.”
Pau Gasol: You deserve this one and all the recognitions in the world. Thank you for bringing so much to the sport of basketball #brother! Te mereces este y todos los reconocimientos del mundo. Gracias por todo lo que has aportado a este deporte #hermano! #Ko8e24
Jayson Tatum: Both.
Kobe Bryant: Different animal, same beast.
Allen Iverson: Congrats!!! #Str8SerialKilla @Kobe Bryant
Ryan Ward: Luke Walton on if #Lakers players will watch Kobe’s jersey retirement ceremony like the Warriors at halftime: “Our first priority is the job we have… I’m sure there will be some halftime adjustments.”
Bryant, who gave an informal backstage pep talk to the fighters, can’t stick around for the card. He said he was in a rush to get home to his three daughters, the oldest of which, Gianna, has flashed some of the same basketball skills as her dad. Bryant has said he has no interest in a Lakers’ front office role and is content to keep his scouting reports within the family. “I coach my daughter’s sixth grade team. That’s the extent of it all,” Bryant said. “She’s a beast. She’s tough. She’s a little firecracker, man.”
Ramona Shelburne: The Lakers are planning to retire Kobe’s jersey before the Warriors game on Dec 18, per team sources. No word yet on whether it’ll be No. 8 or 24.
Bryant says he hasn’t had any pangs of withdrawal since his playing days ended, mostly because he’s so busy with his studio company. “I don’t miss it – not even a little,” Bryant says. “It’s crazy, right? I love what I’m doing right now. I’m all in on my studio projects.”
Bryant is too fresh off his playing career and deep into his business pursuits. But it’s worth noting that he met with Buss and Rambis in February to give his opinion on the state of the franchise. He also advocated for Pelinka, his former agent, who will take over as the Lakers general manager. That left Johnson, who was probably Buss’ first choice, anyway. He reached out to check on her after the announcement that her engagement to Jackson was off. They planned to have dinner, and the rest happened quickly. When you’ve been operating without trust for so long, it makes the desire for it even stronger — and there are few people in the world whom Buss trusts more than Johnson.
I got to ask, because I feel like the setting’s begging for it: What’s your relationship with death? Kobe Bryant: A comfortable one. Yeah? Kobe Bryant: It’s a comfortable one. It’s an understanding. You can’t have life without death. Can’t have light without the dark. So it’s an acceptance of that. When it came time to decide whether or not I should retire, [it was] really an acceptance of that mortality that all athletes face. And if you combat it, you’ll always have that inner struggle within yourself. … So … I’m comfortable with it.
In The Wall Street Journal, you said that you’d been planning this phase as early as three years back. What was the moment that made you decide to start planning? Kobe Bryant: Well, the injury. When I injured my Achilles, then it became something where it’s, OK, this is immediate, right? The end of my career could be now. So since I was 21 years old and thinking, OK, I have to figure out what comes next. You kind of brainstorm, you ideate, but you never really execute anything. And when the injury happened, I said, “OK, no, I need to start building now.” And that’s when the turning point was for me.
Kobe Bryant admitted to watching a few games during the first week of the NBA season. But playing again? Not a chance. “Not even a little bit,” Bryant said Tuesday morning at the launch of his latest signature Nike shoe, the “Kobe A.D.” “It’s strange to think a couple years ago, to be in this emotional space would be unfathomable. But I mean not even a smidge, which I’m very thankful for, because it’s made my transition seamless and I can really just watch and just enjoy the games.”
Asked how closely he’s followed the NBA — in particular the incredible individual performances by Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard — in the first week of the new season, Bryant said, “I’ve been following it. I wouldn’t say closely, but if I’m home and I have a chance to put the game on, and I’m home, I’ll put the game on. I kind of know generally who is winning and who is losing. Players have been playing phenomenally well, which is rare. Normally at the start of the season you kind of have to work yourself into a rhythm. This year they just came out of the gates smoking. That’s rare.”
Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan have already retired after this past season, and Kevin Garnett still hasn’t decided whether to return for another year. “It may go down as the greatest retirement summer in NBA history,” Rivers said, hailing the competitiveness of that group. “The biggest thing, I think, those guys knew how to play. Kevin’s knowledge of the game — and Kevin doesn’t want to hear it, I literally talked to Kevin last night — but Kevin could be the greatest big man teacher in the game right now if he wanted to be. Whenever he did do it in practice there’s no one better than that. Paul Pierce is an NBA encyclopedia. You can ask Paul Pierce any historical question about the NBA. He knows it, he studies it, he loves it. Duncan’s the same way. What’s neat about all three of them (is) they’re all completely different individuals. I’ve never seen three different people, and Kobe can be four different individuals, yet all great in their own right.”
Mike Trudell: Luke Walton on coming in with no Kobe: “20 years, one of the greatest runs in any sport by any athlete. He’s obviously going to be missed.” Luke Walton said Kobe’s exit does open the door for the next stage and movement of Lakers basketball.
Roland Lazenby recently joined the Triple Threat Podcast to discuss his upcoming book about Bryant. While bound to an understandable secrecy agreement with his publishing house (Little Brown), Roland Lazenby was able to describe the project as a 600-page journey through Kobe Bryant’s life and the path his basketball career took. Outside of his most recent book (Michael Jordan: The Life), Lazenby has also written a biography on former Laker Jerry West and taken in-depth looks at the life and career of both Phil Jackson (while he was coaching the Bulls) and even a young Bryant. Roland Lazenby also acknowledged that the book does spend some time focusing on the life of Bryant’s father Joe “Jellybean” Bryant as an NBA player and the parallels Lazenby described as “a pretty compelling story about Kobe being the force of nature” that he has been, and how their two stories are interlinked in the obvious father/son ways and beyond.
While Roland Lazenby described Bryant’s final year as sub par when compared to the incredible standard he established throughout his Hall of Fame career, he said a portion of the book will also center around the vintage 60-point scoring performance Bryant left us with and how unique of a farewell game that truly was. He also described the project as a view of Bryant as both a cultural and sports figure and said his basic focus was on the 20-year career and all the relationships that played a role in developing and maintaining Bryant’s greatness along the way.
FTW: How has retirement been for you? Kobe Bryant: Retirement’s been great for me. I’m focused on the next thing and enjoying that. I get up every morning, and I’m excited to get to it. It’s been good. FTW: John Black said the morning after the game, that you had woken up really early, gone to the gym, got in the office by 8:30, is that still something you’ve kept up? KB: 8! (laughs) Yeah, yeah. I love everything I’m doing. I’m very, very fortunate to be able to say that. It’s always been a great fear of playing the game is will you be able to love the next thing as much as you love playing. Fortunately for me, the answer is yes.
His next move? Ghostbuster. The Black Mamba let The Players’ Tribune ride along for his Ghostbusters commercial shoot.
FTW: There was an AP story that came out and said you’ve been speaking with Spielberg and a lot of the giants in the movie industry, but have you called people from other facets of the business world, as well? KB: Yeah, I’ve been really fortunate to have really great mentors throughout my career, which have nothing to do with basketball. Anna Wintour, Arianna Huffington, Mark Parker, Jony Ive, to be able to have access to them, to speak to them — just speak, not necessarily about business in particular, just nature and people and culture and things like that.
FTW: What’s your stance on eSports and has that changed? Recently, ESPN has been getting into it, it’s now seen more of as a legitimate sport whereas before it was viewed as just video games and not a real sport. KB: I think people are really interested in watching people problem solve. It doesn’t matter what industry. People are very fascinated by that — seeing the struggles people go through and how they overcome it. I think this was just a matter of time before it caught fire. To be able to sit and watch a performance on TV and watch how the gamers are figuring out those challenges amongst themselves, you can’t help but be interested.
A piece of the Staples Center game floor specially made for Kobe Bryant’s last game sold for $179,100. The piece, four panels measuring four feet by eight feet each, had Kobe’s former number 8 on it and was signed by Bryant after he scored 60 points in his final game on April 13.
Byron Scott spent his last two years in Los Angeles, in his words, doing a juggling act. “You do have a bunch of guys that you are trying to develop and get them to understand how to play the right way,” he said on The Dan Patrick Show on Monday morning. “And then you have Kobe basically on a (farewell) tour.”
According to il Corriere dello Sport, Kobe Bryant is interested in investing in Italian team Pallacanestro Reggiana.
Silver said he and the league have already been in discussions with Bryant about incorporating him into the NBA’s future plans in myriad ways, similar to the role that Celtics legend Bill Russell has with the NBA. “I’m sure this is not the last chapter for him, in terms of the NBA,” Silver told the group at NBA headquarters. “He’s talked a lot about all kinds of things, but he said he’d be particularly interested in doing something around media. “There’s some film projects he’s talked to us about. I think he really wants to explore how it is he can teach the game to others, how he can present the inside of the game.”
Chris Bosh on Kobe Bryant: We went to the village to hang out a few times while the Olympic Games were going on, and I remember everybody walking through the arcade that they’d set up for the athletes. There were a bunch of games, but in particular, they had those mini pop-a-shot basketball games that you can find in just about every arcade in the world. Kobe and Michael Redd started playing, and things got competitive. After a few games, I got tired of watching, so I left to meet up with some friends. I had to have been gone for a couple of hours. When it was almost time to head back to the hotel, I stopped by the arcade again and those guys were still playing! Both of them were in a full sweat with a focus like it was a real game. That was pretty funny to me because I’d always heard about how competitive Kobe was and in that moment, I got to witness it for myself.
Sixty points?! On 50 shots?! “It was like I was forced to,” Kobe says. “By the crowd and mostly by teammates.” What was more ridiculous? That his 60 points was twice as many as any Hall of Famer has scored in his last regular-season game. That, at age 37, he was five years older than anyone else who has scored 60 points? That no one has taken 50 shots in an NBA game in 49 years? Or that his teammates didn’t want him to pass? “I challenged him to score 50 points and that motherfucker got 60,” O’Neal said as he stood on the court long after Kobe had left it, trying to process his final brazen act. “It would have taken me four months to get 50 shots on any of the teams I played for,” Horace Grant said. “And that motherfucker took 50 in one night.”
His back hurts and his shoulder is sore from 20 years in the league and 50 god damn shots! And he’s laughing at me, at anyone, who thought he’d be at peace going out any other way. “What you saw there was the opening scene of the basketball version of the blood-spattered bride,” Bryant says. “The opening scene of ‘Kill Bill.'”
There’s the obvious swipe at the narcissism that’s made him at least as famous as his scoring. Of course Kobe has moved into a world of his own making. The only surprise is that he’d pass the vision to a group of writers and trust that they’d execute it better than he could. “I think Walt did this with animation, as well,” he says. Yes, he’s referring to Walt Disney. “He quickly realized that, although he could draw pretty well, there are other animators out there that are just much, much better. He went and found those animators and gave them the vision and allowed them to do what they do best. If you collaborate with great people and each one is enhancing the other, that’s when we create things that are timeless.”
Bryant seemed surprised when he and I boarded an elevator together a couple of hours before the Lakers played the Grizzlies. He recovered quickly and started asking about my daily routine — how often I filed stories, tweeted to followers, etc. He was already gathering information for his post-basketball career, which he hoped would include a website launch akin to Derek Jeter’s theplayerstribune.com, of which Bryant was an original investor. Along those lines, imagine my surprise last season when Bryant didn’t glare at a reporter who asked whether his career was headed the way of Michael Jordan’s — slow in the beginning, plenty of championships in the middle and rough at the end for team and player.
Bryant weighed the question, then said it was fair because it was “reachable content.” He almost sounded like an editor. Last November, I figured he probably wouldn’t find a lengthy Times story I co-wrote with Broderick Turner to be under the same “reachable” category.
Kenny Smith’s dream may actually come true … ’cause “Inside the NBA” has reached out to Kobe Bryant to see if he wants a job, TMZ Sports has learned. Both Kenny and Shaq have publicly talked about wanting Kobe to join the panel on the TNT show after he retired from the NBA … and now, our sources tell us the courting has officially begun.
Bill Oram: LAL GM Mitch Kupchak: “I’d put that night up against any Game 7, any championship, in terms of a performance in the last game of the season”
Mark Medina: Mitch on Kobe’s last game: ” I don’t know how he got through that game.”
Tom Orsborn: Manu on Kobe: “The way he closed it out was unbelievable, the 3s, the contested shots & getting the win. It was a great goodbye party.”
Kobe Bryant not only set a points record for a player of his age in his final NBA game Wednesday night — he also helped the Staples Center and the Los Angeles Lakers break industry merchandise records. On Wednesday alone, the Staples Center sold $1.2 million worth of Kobe merchandise, Sean Ryan, AEG vice president of merchandise told ESPN. Ryan said that’s a single-day sales record for any arena in the world.
Prices of the merchandise were certainly for the well-heeled. Most of the hats, more than 60 percent of which sold out, cost $72.48 each. There were eight hats made out of snake and lamb skin that cost $38,024 and eight hats made from cashmere with five diamonds on it that cost $24,008. Ryan said only three went unsold.
Kobe Bryant not only set a points record for a player of his age in his final game Wednesday night, he also helped the Staples Center and the Los Angeles Lakers break all-time industry merchandise records. On Wednesday alone, the Staples Center sold $1.2 million worth of Kobe merchandise, Sean Ryan, AEG vice president of merchandise told ESPN. Ryan said that’s a single-day sales record for any arena in the world.
The Los Angeles Rams knew they would command huge swathes of public opinion when they announced their blockbuster trade with the Tennessee Titans for the number one pick in the draft. And indeed they did, but it happened about 12 hours after they knew the deal was in place. Knowing that Kobe was preparing to take the court for the final time of his career, the two teams didn’t want to overshadow his moment and therefore delayed the announcement until the following morning, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
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“When Kyrie announced he was opting in, I was like ‘okay, we can move on. This won’t be a thing,’ said Windhorst. “But that’s not what my phone was telling me. That’s not what the executives were telling me. That’s not what the agents were telling me. They are saying this ain’t over, because the Nets made it clear to everybody they did not want the status quo. If nothing else changed, they were not going to be happy. They were not sure if that this satisfied that situation.
“It was not just because of the lack of the vaccine mandate. The entire way that Kyrie operated for the last couple of seasons, not just what happened with the vaccine, was part of what Sean Marks, and really by proxy Joe Tsai, was talking about at the end of the season. “I would like to say this can be put to bed, but that’s not what my sources are saying. They don’t know if this is going to work.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Get Up that organizations will keep calling about both Irving and Kevin Durant: “Teams are going to continue to touch base with Brooklyn to make sure that they plan to keep this group together,” Wojnarowski said.
Harden owns a $47 million player option for 2022-23 and the deadline to act on it is Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the possibility of Harden declining that option and taking a discount to improve the Sixers’ financial freedom is something entertained by both the star guard and the organization. “In a perfect world for the Sixers, and I think in James Harden’s mind, opting out of that deal and then negotiating a new contract here when free agency opens, gives the Sixers a lot more financial flexibility to go and improve this team in the offseason,” Wojnarowski said. “He can still get long-term, guaranteed money or certainly guaranteed money at a very high number over a couple of years by opting out and it gives the Sixers the ability to add to their roster.
Wojnarowski added that he believes “Harden’s gonna be in Philly … on a new deal,” one that would allow the Sixers to bolster their roster in free agency and “get better in the East to compete for a championship.”
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on the most recent The Hoop Collective podcast that he would “keep an eye on Indiana” in regards to restricted free agent Deandre Ayton and that the Pacers were interested in a potential Ayton trade before last season’s February trade deadline (38:20 mark), though the Suns didn’t want to break up their core at the time.