Kobe Bryant’s greatest fear? Yup, bees
by David Leon Moore, USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES – He is 34 now, about to play the 1,420th NBA game of his 17-year career, including playoff games, and these days Kobe Bryant conducts long, cordial postgame interviews in front of his locker with his feet in an ice bucket, bags of ice bandaged to both knees and occasionally adorned with a bonus bag of ice, like the one bandaged to his left shoulder Tuesday night.
“There’s nothing really troubling physically,” Bryant said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with USA TODAY Sports on the eve of a game against the NBA champion Miami Heat.
“Just general 34-year-old soreness.”
There’s nothing really troubling his basketball game, either.
Just extraordinary 34-year-old excellence.
At an age when most players begin to decline, and playing almost 39 minutes a night, and playing for a team with a 17-21 record, Bryant is having one of the best seasons of his career. He leads the league in scoring at 29.9 points per game. His shooting percentage – 47.8% — is the best of his career. And, recently, he has been reminding everyone that he can still be an elite defender.
“It’s remarkable,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said of Bryant’s play. “It really is. He’s 34, right? I want to be 34.”
Despite the Lakers’ failure so far to become a championship-caliber team after the additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, Bryant has become more cooperative and relaxed with the local news media, leading to the impression that the famously reserved and sometimes-prickly superstar has become kinder and gentler.
Not so, Bryant said.
“I’m not any kinder than I have been in the past. A lot of it is just perception, how people view me. I think throughout my years of being here, I think people, especially the media, have accepted how I am. You know, the dry humor, the sarcasm, all this other stuff, I think it’s just becoming a little more accepted. But I have been much more patient with my teammates in understanding the difficulties of going … [For more on Interview: Kobe Bryant's greatest fear? Yup, bees, click here.]