What makes the Lakers guard so difficult off the court is precisely what makes him so great on the court.

L.A. Times: I had to ask him.

Kobe Bryant had just accepted the most meaningful, coveted most-valuable-player award of any sport, gripping it tight amid a hotel ballroom teeming with legends and love.

But I had to ask him.

Now that he is basketball’s official king of unselfishness, does he regret those times last spring when he was so selfish?

Now that he is basketball’s official portrait of teamwork, does he regret those summer days when he was the Lakers’ worst teammate?

“No,” he said, staring coldly. “I was right the whole time.”

He paused. The room fell silent.

“I’m joking!” he said suddenly with a laugh, and, filled with great and obvious relief, everyone laughed with him.

Maybe he was joking. Maybe he wasn’t. The only thing certain is that those five seconds symbolized a dozen years.

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