I love watching the maturation of Kobe Bryant. During the Black Mamba’s 17-years in the NBA, we ‘ve watched him go from talented teen to temperamental guarded superstar. As of late, the wheels are off and Kobe has been more candid than at any other point. He recently had an interview with ESPN.com where he covered why he only has 1 MVP award, his best friend in the NBA, the last time he was intimidated and who he’d take 1-on-1 in the NBA. Hint, the Lakers are facing off against his team tonight and they’re the current NBA champs.
Why have you only won one MVP?
Because I played with Shaq. It’s that simple. A lot of the time we cancelled each other out. I sacrificed a lot playing with him. I really did. I did it for the success of the team. If I never played with him, my numbers would have been ridiculous.
Who is your best friend in the NBA that’s not a former teammate?
[Long pause.] There’s nobody I’m really hanging out with and going out with every night. But I’d probably say Carmelo Anthony. We’re pretty close. A lot of the guys from Team USA I get along with really well. I really respect those guys.
Have you ever been intimidated on the basketball court?
Never. Not at all. My mind doesn’t work that way. It’s something that’s never even entered my thought process. The last time I was intimidated was when I was 6 years old in karate class. I was an orange belt and the instructor ordered me to fight a black belt who was a couple years older and a lot bigger. I was scared s—less. I mean, I was terrified and he kicked my ass. But then I realized he didn’t kick my ass as bad as I thought he was going to and that there was nothing really to be afraid of. That was around the time I realized that intimidation didn’t really exist if you’re in the right frame of mind.
Who would you most like to play one-on-one, either active or retired?
Jordan. No question.
What would happen?
I’m not sure, but he would win some and I would win some in a seven-game series. It would probably come down to the last few shots.
You versus LeBron? Who wins?
Me. No question. As far as one-on-one, I’m the best to ever do it.
Damn. That’s pretty confident.
LeBron is a terrific all-around, five-on-five basketball player who’s an all-time great. But I’d get him.
Who could get you?
Kevin Durant is the guy that would give me the most trouble. With his length and ability to use the dribble, he’d be tough.
I always wanted to see you play Tracy McGrady.
I played T-Mac. I cooked him. Roasted him. Wasn’t even close. Ask him, he’ll tell you. When I was about 20, we were in Germany doing some promotional stuff for that other sneaker company and we played basketball every day. We were in the gym all the time. We played three games of one-on-one to 11. I won all three games. One game I won 11-2. After the third game he said he had back spasms and couldn’t play anymore.
What about Kyrie Irving?
[Huge smile, laugh.] Kyrie’s my boy, but he knows he doesn’t have anything for me. He doesn’t want to see me. But it would be fun. I’ve beaten a lot of guys one-on-one, like Reggie Miller and Grant Hill. I used to play Caron Butler all the time in practice when he was with the Lakers. When I was a rookie I used to get Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones. They know. They’ll tell you. They used to come at me hard but I wasn’t having that. I love going one-on-one with someone. That’s what I do. I’ve never lost. It’s a whole different game, just to have them right in front of you and be able to do whatever you want.
Cocky, yes? but accurate. It’s funny, I was having a debate with someone on Twitter today. The person said Kobe isn’t better than LeBron because he had Shaq for 3 of those rings. That sort of logic blows me to a degree. Basketball is a team sport, even MJ had a Hall of Fame teammate in Scottie Pipen. Add Magic Johnson and Tim Duncan to that list too.
So then the person says, well LeBron made it to the finals with no team, Kobe got bounced early and didn’t make the playoffs at all. My response, look at the West during that time period and look at the east. Only the Pistons and Heat won finals during the 00’s from the eastern conference, the east was definitely the “least” for several years. Plus, attaching that logic, Dwight Howard is better than Mamba also because his Magic made it to the finals with out help.
But that’s another discussion for another day. For the past two decades, it’s been about Jordan and Kobe. LeBron’s got next… again, another conversation for another day.
To read the rest of the piece, and it’s absolutely worth the read, go HERE.
photo via Instagram