Recap: Kobe Bryant And Jemele Hill’s BET Experience Genius Talk


Team chemistry is a topic that is always filled with controversy when you’re talking about Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Over the years, Kobe’s focus on winning and being the best has alienated some and been a highly debated barber shop conversation for most of his career.


Over the weekend Kobe participated in the BET Experience Genius Talks with ESPN’s Jemele Hill at LA Live right across the street from Staples Center. When the topic turned to friendships, Kobe elaborated on a comment he made earlier this year about him never being a “great friend.” Kobe explained that “friendships come and go, but banners hand forever.”

Earlier this year, Kobe Bryant said “being a great friend is something I will never be.” The Los Angeles Lakers star guard explained that comment at an event Saturday by saying, “I meant that friends can come and go, but banners hang forever.”

“It’s crazy, right?” Bryant said Saturday of his mindset. “It’s like, ‘This dude is nuts.’ But when you grow up, I loved the game so much. It wasn’t on purpose to be a bad friend or not to be as good of a friend. It takes time to do that. It takes a lot of energy to do that.

“Consciously, all my energy was focused on one thing. It’s like, friends, I have friends that have known me since I was 11. They know that that’s how I am. But nine times out of 10, that’s how they are too. Because they’re as driven at what they do as what I am. It works out.”

Jemele also asked Kobe if he’s learned anything from those tense relationships with teammates over the past 19 seasons.

“Don’t be an a**hole,” Bryant said with a laugh. “No, I mean, I’ve never been the most patient person in the world, and one of my pet peeves is laziness or people who make excuses. I can’t stand it. Working with Shaq, the guy, he’s a freak of nature. He’s mean when he plays, which I relate to.

“But there are other parts that I just didn’t relate to. So there are certain things that were strengths of his, like putting his arm around the guys and helping them be better emotionally and giving them support. I wasn’t very good at that.

“But my strengths were my focus and my dedication to the game. I had to sit back and say, ‘We have these disagreements, but what can I learn from him? What does he do well?’ And once I was able to look in the mirror and say, ‘OK, maybe you are being an a–h—?’ You’ve got to self-assess. All this stuff ain’t coming from [nowhere]. It’s not just made up. So once I learned that, I think we were able to go to a higher level as a team.”

So, how does one go about “not being an a**hole?”

“There’s two ways to do that,” he said. “One, you can stop. Or two, you can just be extremely consistent, and then the people will get used to it. So when I said, ‘I stopped being an a–h—,’ what I’m really saying is people just got used to me being an a**hole. Then it was like, ‘OK, that’s just him.’”

Kobe also discussed the moment when a teammate’s words impacted him.

“Honestly, I remember Rick Fox said something in a meeting that stuck with me forever,” Bryant said. “Because we were having a discussion and he said, ‘Kobe, we just want to feel like you’re a part of us.’ And I never looked at it that way. I thought, ‘What do you mean? I am. I’m practicing hard every single day.’

“But that’s not what he meant. For me, stop being an a**hole really meant you’ve got to start approaching the game on a human level and understand that we are people and we need to have that connection versus this hard drive all the time. Because no matter how skillful you are, it’s an emotional game. If you don’t have that emotional connectivity with somebody or with a group, you’re not going to get at your highest level of potential.”

People always want to know if there are any teammates Kobe has a true relationship with. it seems as if Kobe learned about himself and friendship during the Lakers last back-to-back championship run.  He’s still close with several of his former teammates, like Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, Ronny Turiaf and Shannon Brown.

“Now, to them, if you ask them, they’ll sit here and say, ‘No, he’s not an a**hole,’” Bryant said. “But if you go to some of the other guys who show up to practice an hour later. You know what I’m saying? You know them. They’re easily identifiable. Those guys will say, ‘Yeah, he’s a big a**hole.’

“Your job is to imprint a DNA on a team. You have to push buttons. The trick is figuring out when to push them and how to push them. You’ve got to do that.”

How bad has Kobe laid into a teammate?

“Oh, Jesus, let me think,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not sure if the fact that I’m thinking about the worst things that I’ve said really means that I haven’t said that many, or maybe I’ve said too many. I’m scrolling through them [in my mind]. I’m like on iPod shuffle.

“I have made somebody cry before.”

“There are certain players that I’ve made cry,” Bryant said. “If I can make you cry by being sarcastic, then I really don’t want to play with you in the playoffs if that’s making you cry.

“But let me see. There was one teammate that was just so bad. He was so bad. It wasn’t Kwame [Brown]. Kwame wasn’t actually that bad. I tease Kwame. It wasn’t Smush [Parker]. It was a player that you guys won’t even remember if I said who his name was. I can’t even pronounce his name. It was some European kid.

“But he was really, really bad. I said, ‘Dude, you might want to reconsider what your life purpose is. Maybe it’s not this.’ It came out that way. I was like, maybe 20-something years old, I don’t know, really young.

“You know how you think one thing in your head, like, ‘I’m going to say this, and it’s going to sound like this.’ Then it comes out and it’s like, ‘Oh, s—. That’s not what it sounds like.’ That is not how I envisioned it coming out. No, I meant, maybe you’re not reaching your highest potential by doing this. Maybe it’s something else.”

Jemele also asked Kobe what he thought about the perception that free agents didn’t want to play with him in LA.

“From people that want to take the easy route with stuff,” Bryant said. “You want to come? You want to play and play your heart out and compete and win? We’ll have no issues. It’s the people that … say these things and the people that don’t show up to practice and the people that don’t want to work hard and the people that aren’t committed to it. We will never have anything in common. We just won’t. I’m completely fine with that. I’m completely OK with that. We can’t converse.”

Jemele asked how growing up in Italy shaped his style of play and relationships.

“It shaped a lot,” he said. “In that situation, you wind up being in isolation a lot, so you have a lot of time to think. I gravitated to basketball even more because of the lack of common ground that I had with friends over there. So I wound up playing the game a lot by myself, imagining and dreaming and envisioning.

“But also, on the flip side of that, it makes you play things closer to the chest. Which is why I’m more comfortable shooting the ball off the double-team than passing to somebody in the corner for a game winner. No joke. Because you grow up really relying on yourself. So I had to learn, no, it’s OK to work with others. But when you grow up in isolation, especially in pressure moments, you always kind of go back to your nature.”

Kobe was asked about his plans for retirement, and if he was really ready to hang them up.

“You gotta retire sometime,” he said. “I’m not Benjamin Button, man.”

“At the end of the season, if I feel like going through this again and doing it all over again, I will. If I feel like, I don’t, I won’t,” he said. “I won’t make a big deal about it or whatever. I’ll be ready to move on. I’ll be ready to do something else.

“I’ll be ready to take on that challenge and try to show athletes, listen, we are more than this. I think that’s the challenge that I’m ready to take on too. It’s like, we can do more than play basketball. We can do more than simply sit here and be puppets for brands and for an industry and this, that and the other. We can build our own s**t. When that time comes, I’ll be ready to do that.”

So what will Kobe do once he hangs his sneakers up?

“Work,” he said. “I love the concept of storytelling. I love inspiring. I love trying to help people reach their full potential … I think there’s a myriad of businesses where storytelling can then connect to because it’s all centered around that … It’s all storytelling.”

As far as Kobe’s new teammate Larry Nance Jr. and his old Tweet about Kobe being a rapist. Kobe had this to say.

“The kid figured it out himself, he’s a kid, man. He actually sent me a great message [Friday], which is really funny. I looked at it [the message], and it was like, ‘This is when you know it’s about time to hang these things up, when your teammate writes you, Hi, Mr. Bryant.’

“I was like, ‘What the f**k?’ But it was really nice and apologetic about what had happened. I said, ‘Dude, listen. We’ve all said things and done things that we regret and wish we could take back. It’s water under the bridge, man. Welcome to the team.’ He writes back, ‘Thank you, sir.'”