Image: Nokia Theatre
August 15th, 2013 – The Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation partnered with the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to host Kobe Up Close.
All proceeds from the event went towards eliminating homelessness in Los Angeles.
The event was a unique opportunity for Lakers fans to access the unfiltered mind of their beloved superstar, Kobe Bryant.
In attendance at the event were current Lakers Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly and Wesley Johnson, new assistant coach Mark Madsen, former Lakers coach Bill Sharman, Lakers executives Jeanie Buss and Jim Buss, former NFL player Terrell Owens, among others.
The event began with CBS sportscaster Jim Hill speaking on Bryant.
Hill on his first impression of Bryant back when he was drafted by the Lakers:
“I remember Jerry West talking about Kobe Bryant and saying he was going to be very, very special. He was going to be one of the true great ones. And Jerry doesn’t say that about a lot of people, especially young people.”
“The first time I met Kobe, I knew then he was going to be not only a great one, but a very special one.”
On just how special Bryant really is:
“We will never see the likes of Kobe Bryant again, he is truly a gifted basketball player.”
“He doesn’t look at basketball as a job. For him it’s a passion. He’s spoiled us with his excellence.”
“What drives Kobe the most is when people doubt him. You will see a devoted Kobe this season like you’ve never seen before.”
Former Laker Robert Horry also spoke on Bryant before the main event started.
Horry on Bryant’s mental edge:
“Kobe’s mindset is amazing. When you see someone in the locker room as focused as he was, it really lifts everyone else up.”
On his relentless work ethic:
“When you walk into practice and you see him in there working hard. He’s in there sweating before you get there and after you leave.”
After Horry’s short segment, the main event with Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel began.
Bryant on the number of minutes he played last season:
“I don’t think it was too many. The Achilles injury was just a freak injury.”
On whether he’ll play less minutes next season:
“That’s the goal … I could sit back until June, I just want that jewelry.”
On when he will play again:
“I don’t know if I’ll be ready opening night, but I am really ahead of schedule.”
On whether it was a personal decision to stop tweeting during games last season or a franchise decision:
“That was my decision. The Lakers know I’m a little too stubborn to ever be told anything.”
On his popularity in China:
“I really don’t know. I started going out there in 1998 and have gone every summer since.”
Kobe was a Lakers fan even before he came to the United States:
“While I was living in Italy, my grandpa used to send me tapes of Lakers games and I absolutely fell in love with them.”
On his decision to skip college and go straight to the NBA out of high school:
“I liked Duke and I absolutely love Coach K. If I had had to make a decision though, I would have gone to North Carolina. Mainly because of the competition and being able to play against Vince Carter every day to improve.”
“The first college letter I ever received was from West Point … I was just happy to get a letter.”
Would he tell others to skip college?
“I would just tell others to follow their dreams.”
On his pre-draft workout with the Clippers:
“The Clippers told me they wouldn’t draft me because they wanted to ‘turn things around.’ They said they wouldn’t be taken seriously if they drafted a 17-year-old kid out of high school.”
On the late Dr. Jerry Buss:
“He knew exactly what his vision was. He was very patient, understanding. He allowed me room to grow as a person.”
On his first time meeting Shaquille O’Neal:
“It was the coolest thing in the world that he had a huge cell phone.”
Which title was Bryant’s favorite during his time with Shaq?
“Number 2. We should have gone undefeated. It still bothers us to this day that we let that one game drop.”
What is Bryant’s relationship with Michael Jordan like?
“It’s like a big brother relationship. He gives me phenomenal advice on how to better elevate my teammates.”
On who are the toughest players he’s played against:
“Allen Iverson was a load to handle. Stephon Marbury dropped 50 on me once. Gilbert Arenas. Today, probably Carmelo Anthony because he’s so strong. Kevin Durant too. The guy who gave me the most trouble though was Tracy McGrady.”
When asked if he was certain he’d be a Laker for life, Bryant responded: “Yeah.”
Bryant on Dwight Howard and his exodus from Los Angeles:
“Dwight is a great kid. We have different perspectives on what it takes to win and what it takes to be successful.”
On trying to convince Howard to stay:
“It’s all about the organization and trying to set them up the best I can for when I retire.”
On his once volatile relationship with Shaq:
“It never bothered me when other people said, ‘You only won because of Shaq.’ It bothered me when Shaq said it.”
On his evolution as both a player and a person:
“I was so consumed with my craft in the beginning of my career. … I go into games now looking at what my guys are going through and who’s struggling, and how I can help. I look at my teammates now as partners.”
When asked if he could have one former teammate return, who would it be:
“I’d take Derek Fisher back … that’s my guy.”
On what he’s most proud of:
“Being a 17-year-old kid and challenging the system at the time.”
Is Bryant chasing Kareem Abdul-Jabar’s all-time scoring mark?
“I’m so obsessed with winning that those type of things don’t really matter to me.”
Which is Bryant’s favorite nickname right now?
“I like Vino right now. Black Mamba is my alter-ego.”
On the ESPN experts projecting the Lakers to finish 12th in the West this season:
“I use it as motivation, as fuel. We were the favorites last year and they were wrong about that.”
On who is the ‘next Kobe Bryant’:
“There’s several. Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. Even Nick Young. They all have that gene.”
The event ended with Terrell Owens asking Bryant a few questions. The two share a common neuro-muscular scientist consultant in Barrence Baytos. Both Bryant and Owens raved about Baytos and Bryant called him a “genius” who has helped prolong his career.
The Kobe Up Close event was a great opportunity to delve into the mind of Kobe Bryant.
This revealing ‘other side’ to the ever-intense Black Mamba was certainly riveting and quite interesting.
Bryant will continue what he called an “aggressive” rehabilitation process as he prepares to return from his Achilles tendon tear.