More than the 31,000 points, 15 All-Star selections and five championships, more than the silky turnaround jumpers, effortless baseline drives and feverish scoring binges, Bryant will forever be remembered for a belief in himself that you couldn't strip with a dozen Bruce Bowens. Years ago, upon returning from the horror flick Saw II, Bryant described for Lakers trainer Gary Vitti a scene in which a victim awakens to find a contraption locked around his neck lined with nails pointed at his head. A videotape explains that the victim can unlock the device with a key, but it has been surgically implanted behind his right eye, and he can only extract it with a scalpel. He has a minute before it closes over his face and kills him. "I think I could get that key," Bryant said.
"I believe you," Vitti replied.
There it is, one more brushstroke applied to the intricately drawn image of Kobe Bean Bryant, so lifelike that kids ask what kind of potion he drinks on the bench, players wonder if they can bike through the desert with him in the middle of the night, and 5,000 people show up at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles simply to watch him give Jimmy Kimmel an hourlong interview. "Everybody wants to know what's inside of him," says Lakers center Robert Sacre, who was one of the 5,000.
Coaches run Bryant as if his prime will last forever, never mind that he's 35, has cleared 54,000 minutes during the regular season and playoffs (nearly 6,000 more than Michael Jordan) and resembles a wide receiver in a league of free safeties. They say he is just different, the word observers have been using since he first fixed that fabled jaw, and therefore human limitations are easy to ignore. He doesn't flinch when an inbounds passer pretends to throw a ball at his nose. He doesn't glance down after he turns an ankle. He doesn't sleep much, content to lie with a towel over his eyes, his brain leading a fast break. When the Achilles blew, Bryant tried to manually pull the ruptured tendons down with his fingertips, so he could walk on the heel. "It's the Achilles' heel!" Vitti says. "Not even a Greek god could do that."
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Edited by Tensai, October 16, 2013 - 08:46 AM.