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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Kobe Bryant on Rome is Burning: "There is No Greater Sense of Enjoyment You Get Than Representing Your Country"

Kobe Bryant was Jim Rome's in studio guest on the Tuesday episode of "Rome is Burning." Here are most of the questions and answers from that interview:

Rome: "You're an MVP, you're a three-time World Champion and now you've got the hardware--how does this one (Olympic gold medal) rank compared to everything you've accomplished?"

Bryant: "This is right at the top because we always talked about it on the team: the sense of honor that you have playing for your country can't be matched. In the NBA you are playing for a particular brand or a particular region but when you are playing for USA you are playing for the sum total of it all and that's pretty cool."

Rome: "Seriously--better than an NBA title?"

Bryant: "Better. There's no greater sense of enjoyment you get than representing your country. Plus, it's cool when you go to the Opening Ceremonies or you hear the Star Spangled Banner being played and you look up in the crowd and you see everybody waving USA flags; they could be Celtics fans, they could be Pistons fans but I think that it is so neat for them--for everybody--to just bond together for one common goal. That's pretty awesome."

Rome: "So much went into this. (Team USA Managing Director) Jerry Colangelo said we're going to pick the right team and guys are going to make a three year commitment. We can't have happen what happened in Athens. So you get there and you roll right through the entire tournament and then you get Spain in the championship game and they come back on you. They cut that lead to two. At that point, what were you thinking?"

Bryant (big smile): "This is fun. This is fun. That's the thing I remember thinking."

Rome: "Really? Because I was thinking something bad is going to happen."

Bryant (laughs): "No, no, no. We talked about that moment when we would get tested and my point was, this is what we do. This is the most fun. We have a two point lead here, we called a timeout because we needed one and we have to regroup--now let's get back at it. Let's make it happen."

Rome: "Coach K called a timeout and he pulled you aside and he had something to tell you specifically. What was his message to you?"

Bryant: "He wanted me to get after it and to assert myself--not necessarily to score the ball but to make plays and I was able to do that and read the defense. I saw some gaps and some things that I could take advantage of."

Rome: "The question coming in was if you are at the end of the game, who gets that last shot? Who does the ball go to? Should I assume that because of that conversation in the final analysis you were the guy? He wanted you to take care of it."

Bryant (laughs): "Yeah, it kind of fell into my hands in terms of being able to make the decisions down the stretch and because I am probably the one who has the the most experience on the team in those pressure situations. I made a couple plays, kicked it to a couple of our guys and they made some big shots."

Rome: "Ultimately, how do you divvy up leadership? If you have a room full of alpha dogs, guys that everybody is used to looking to and you're all in the same room, how do you divvy that up and who do the guys follow?"

Bryant: "You know what, it just kind of happens, to be honest with you. Jason (Kidd) was there. He's been a tremendous leader for a while. I forget what his record was in Olympic basketball and international competition but it was something crazy like 48-0. So he's been there before. LeBron's leadership is more vocal. He's constantly going all the time and his motor is never off. Myself, I'm more of a quiet guy but I get things done just by leading by example and the level of intensity that I play with."

Rome: "There was speculation that after you got the gold, OK, it's time to get the surgery and it looked like you were set to do it and then you decided not to get surgery on your pinkie. How come?"

Bryant: "Originally, when we talked about it during the season, we thought that it would be a three or four week process of recovery. We said that the perfect window is after the Olympics, get it done, miss maybe a week of camp and then get back at it. But after further due diligence we found out that it is six weeks minimum just to get the hand back to moving and touching the ball and things like that. So, total it would be a 12 week process and I can't miss that much."

Rome: "Can you make it worse by playing with it?"

Bryant: "No, there's nothing worse that can happen. It's gone; it's broke. I'm going to have to have surgery to fix it eventually but right now it's just not that time."

Rome: "But what if you do have to shut it down? What if you are not there when they need you the most?"

Bryant: "That's always a risk that you have to assess. My feeling on that is that I am pretty conscious when I play the game of how to protect myself, particularly my hand. I feel like that is something I can manage."

Rome: "You go and win the gold medal. Does that take away the sting of how the Finals ended?"

Bryant: "Yeah, it does but it makes you want to win a championship that much more because you see the champagne bottles and all this other stuff in the locker room--jumping up and down, singing and having a good time. You want to have that same feeling again. We just had an opportunity, we didn't make the most of it but we still gained valuable experience."

Rome: "Do you find yourself going back to game four? Obviously, you have 12 other championship caliber guys that are on that same team--five on the floor, the rest on the bench. They weren't going to give in. But, you're at home, game four, 24 point lead, how are you not able to choke them out in your house in a game that is that important?"

Bryant: "I think that in a series the better team is always going to win, no matter what. That's something that I've always learned. I feel like we were a great team but they were better and they were better in areas that we need to improve in: defense and rebounding. That gets it done every single time. We were a good defensive team--inconsistent, but we were good. This season we are going to be much better in those areas."

Rome: "Defensively, they were good. I mean, watching you the entire year when you won the MVP, it just seemed like when you wanted to, when you chose to, you could take over at any time. Personally, I kept waiting for that to happen in the NBA Finals and it never really happened. What did the Celtics do to make things so challenging for you?"

Bryant: "They had a rule, which is to put two, three, four guys between me and the basket at all times. That is the kind of defense that we saw. They were willing to give my teammates open looks, which is a defense that we have seen before but I think that the thing that really hurt us is those moments or stretches when we were scoreless and they came down to the other end and knocked down two, three, four threes and all of a sudden a four point game is a 12, 15 point game and it is tough to recover from that."

Rome: "They were so physical, too. Probably, you guys need to get more physical--or, is that not the case and do you just need to get Andrew Bynum back?"

Bryant: "We'll get stronger. I think those are areas that we know we have to get better at. I think having Andrew in the middle will help tremendously. They got a lot of layups. On top of hitting wide open threes, they were driving down the lane and getting finger rolls. I think having him in the lane is going to help us out a lot."

After a commercial break, Rome did one more bonus segment with Bryant.

Rome: "Kobe, you turned 30 recently and you are now 13 years in. Is your best basketball still ahead of you or maybe, at 30 with 13 years in, have you already played it?"

Bryant (wry smile): "No, I think it's still ahead of me. I hear that a lot but it makes me want to drive that much harder. Obviously, you have to be a little smarter with your training. It's all part of challenge."

Rome: "Training is going to factor into it but now do you pick your spots during games when before you just went?"

Bryant: "Oh, yeah, but that just comes with experience. Even when I was 22, 23 years old, I tried to pick my spots but as you get older you start to learn more about the game. You figure things out more. Things just come a little bit more easily than they did at that age."

Rome: "So what is your relationship with Phil Jackson like right now? There have been some ups and some downs."

Bryant: "It's incredible. We actually communicated pretty often during the Olympics, with him just saying good luck and being supportive."

Rome: "Kobe, how did you make that right? He wrote some things in that book that were not very favorable. How did you see clear of that to get back on the same page with him?"

Bryant: "Who am I to judge? Everybody makes mistakes. When he called me and said that I want to come back and coach and help you turn this thing around I'm not going to sit there and hold it over his head. I'm going to look at it as water under the bridge and move on and that's what we were able to do."

Rome: "Would you approach your relationship with Shaq the same way?"

Bryant: "I always have. In fact, before the latest incident we actually talked on the phone. He actually called me and said that he was proud of the way that I was playing and how I was playing in the playoffs and that sort of thing. I've always approached relationships that way, you forgive and you just move on and give people a second chance."

Rome: "What do you make of that? Was he being insincere when he picked up the phone and called you and said I'm proud of you and then laid down that rap?"

Bryant: "I don't know. I try to focus on things that I can control. At that time, I had the gold medal to focus on. Now it's about trying to get a championship. So I try to keep my eyes on the prize and not worry too much about what is going on over here."

The next few questions concerned the possibility that a foreign team would put together a big enough deal to tempt a top NBA player to move overseas. Bryant kept his options open, saying that it "is not out of the realm of possibility" that this could happen. The interview concluded with this question:

Rome: "Have you thought about how this whole thing ends? When it's all said and done, the final chapter of your career?"

Bryant: "I've thought about it before. I'd love to be remembered as a guy who just loved to play the game, who worked extremely hard at it and won. If people can say that about me I'll be very happy."

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:13 AM

10 comments

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10 Comments:

At Wednesday, September 17, 2008 1:53:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

i seen this kobe such a big star usually rome does one segment with studio guest he did two with kobe i never seen him do two before. kobe should be ready for season lakers are contenders

do you think mo willams will make put cleveland over the top.

 
At Wednesday, September 17, 2008 2:42:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

I think that Mo Williams will help. His defense is a bit of a question but players who come to Cleveland either start playing more defense or they end up on the bench, so I think that he will work hard at that end of the court.

I expect the Cavs to make another deep playoff run in the East; they should be better this year than last year, assuming nobody gets hurt before the start of training camp and no one holds out.

 
At Wednesday, September 17, 2008 3:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh, another Kobe post. This is a good one I think though. Good interview from Kobe, although it's possible if I heard it live it would have driven me mildly bonkers.

I think the paragraph that begins with "I think that in a series the better team is always going to win...." is one of the truest observations/team assessment I have ever heard from a player.

Something like 85% of the last 25 finals have been won by the team with the better efficiency differential. And the Lakers did have a serious rebounding problem that Bynum should fix.

Owen

P.S. I have two responses to write to other post, will get on it, just a little bit late for that now.

 
At Wednesday, September 17, 2008 4:44:00 AM, Anonymous Allen said...

Good stuff.

I especially like where Kobe says "the better team wins" over a long series.

He's definitely not a sore loser, and he focuses on what needs work on the Lakers, instead of thinking "oh, if we had got that one call in our favor" or "oh, if only that guy made or missed that one shot".

This dude is a winner.

I feel like like you must be among the minority of people who can separate the statistics and achievements from the skills and abilities.

Basketball has such a variable element to it that it's easy to imagine two hypothetical individual players with the exact same skill set having two completely different statistical results and achievements depending on the path their careers take.

 
At Wednesday, September 17, 2008 8:59:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

One of the last posts someone said this is the greatest Kobe fan site. I know its not but a funny comment you have to admit. Do you even watch Rome is Burning reguarly? I knew he was in studio..I missed it.

I noticed Coach K called a timeout. I dont think Chuck Daly had to call any timeouts in 92.

 
At Wednesday, September 17, 2008 11:24:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

I rarely watch Rome is Burning. When I was watching SportsCenter earlier in the day, they mentioned that Kobe would be on Rome is Burning, so I was interested to hear what he would say about his finger.

 
At Wednesday, September 17, 2008 12:05:00 PM, Blogger Big E said...

David,

Thank you for this summary from the Rome is Burning interview with Kobe. Perhaps you've done this before but can you give us your theory as to why so many bloggers are preoccupied with your Kobe posts?

Whether people like it or not Kobe is a polarizing figure and the best player in the NBA. It makes sense to me that any NBA analysis would have a disproportionate amount of Kobe coverage.

Don't you think that an MLB blog would focus on ARod or Albert Pujols, an NFL blog would focus more on Tom Brady, Peyton Manning etc?

 
At Wednesday, September 17, 2008 5:37:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Big E:

It does seem logical that an NBA blog would have a lot of coverage of a three-time champion who is the reigning MVP and helped lead Team USA to the Olympic gold medal. Considering that I also provide substantial coverage of the entire league--and the sport's history, such as my three recent pieces about Dantley, Ewing and Olajuwon--I'm not sure why some people act like this is exclusively a Kobe blog.

 
At Thursday, September 18, 2008 10:43:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

big e....

if its an NFL or MLB blog shouldnt it cover the leagues and not just focus on one or two players? Being a Yankees fan I definitely dont want to hear about ARod (great numbers but never clutch) or Pujols (your examples) especially since neither will be in the playoffs.

The thing is with blogs you can do what you want because its your blog. David definitely writes about Bryant more than anyone else so its seems like hes a Bryant groupie. But his blog is definitely more diverse than that. Ive stated before Ive found out about books that you cant find out about from anyone else. And Ive won a contest on here. So nuff respect to David.

David....I know you dont watch Rome is Burning. It seems like Bryant is maturing and thats good. From the Olympics to the Oneal scenario hes growing up and people never even mention his sexcapades with that Colorado woman.

 
At Friday, September 19, 2008 2:33:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

Unlike A-Rod and Pujols, Kobe's team was in the playoffs. Anyway, I think that I have more historical stuff in my right hand sidebar than just about anyone this side of NBA.com--and unlike their stuff, my writing is not bland. During the course of the season, I did game recaps and/or feature stories about most of the better teams in the league. If there is one area that I don't focus that much on, it would probably be bad teams; most of my coverage is devoted to the better teams and players.

Kobe is maturing but that is a natural process that everyone goes through; I think that he was pretty mature for a kid coming straight out of high school if you think in terms of his work ethic and professionalism.

As for the athletes' private lives, I stay away from talking about that as much as possible but one does not have to look too far on the internet to realize that MJ, Shaq and many other NBA players past and present did not take a back seat to Kobe regarding "sexcapades." MJ managed to keep things out of the news during his playing career and the stuff that has come out post-retirement does not seem to have really dented his image. What Kobe has on his "record" is one incident that any competent prosecutor would never have brought to court in the first place and if you take that legal element out of it then Kobe is no better or worse than MJ et. al.

 

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