If you looked at Kobe’s last year in the NBA, you’d assume that age was catching up with the longtime veteran, where his dunk over Emeka Okafor in the first round of this year’s playoffs was a rare sight of the Kobe of old. However, if you took a look at the recent photos of Kobe in Manila, the slideshow is nearly all Kobe dunks, most of them thunderous throwdowns with fans and players applauding in the background.
Is Kobe only a “Thrilla in Manila” now? Or are these images something we can expect next season?
Bryant’s visit to Manila is the first of a five-city Asian tour organized by Nike that will take him to Seoul and other cities throughout China. Yesterday, Bryant was an everyman, doing interviews with six media groups, workouts with local players and a fan session that was described by the Philippine Star as “all smiles from start to finish – he clearly enjoyed every minute of the brief visit”
His fourth time visiting the country, Kobe was open in the the one-on-one interviews, covering the globalization of basketball to keeping his body from breaking down despite 15 NBA seasons of fatigue.
Kobe acknowledged being hampered by injuries this past season, something that doesn’t stop him from competing:
“If I’m hurt but I’m still standing, I’ll go out there and give it my best shot,” he said. “It’s just the love of the game. I love playing. I don’t like taking days off. I don’t like quitting. It’s not who I am. To me, it’s about winning. Somebody has to win and I’d rather (that somebody) be me.”
He also contended that, while he may not be the high-flyer he was at 18 when he entered the league, he still practices just as hard as he did fifteen years ago:
“I keep working, I keep training,” he said. “I’ve been taking care of my body since I was 18, not just now. There’s no secret to improving your game. It’s just constant practice. You practice to get better. I enjoy training, it’s fun. The fun comes in when you’re tired and you push yourself to try to be the best player you can be. You challenge your will. At the same time, you listen to your body and take care of it.”
With this year’s draft bringing so many foreign players to the NBA, Kobe was aware of the rapid development of international players:
“If you’ve got a good player, no matter where he’s playing, the NBA will find him,” said Bryant. “That’s how global the NBA is now. Every time I come back to Manila, everybody’s improving. Coaches play an important role in teaching players. They shouldn’t be screamers or yellers. They should be patient and know how to talk the game. The key is to be able to teach.”
The last quote comes at no surprise, as Kobe’s father Joe Bryant was recently named the interim coach for the Los Angeles Sparks. As of now, Kobe has touched down in Seoul for the second part of his tour across Asia. We’ll keep you up to date on who Kobe’s dunking on today.