NBA Saturday: Bryant Dishes on Legacy, Teammates
Throughout the course of the lockout, Kobe Bryant has been busy playing in exhibition games, flirting with teams overseas and staying involved in the labor talks. However, Bryant took time out of his busy schedule on Thursday to speak to students in a UC Santa Barbara psychology class. He answered many questions from the students, and his responses were extremely candid and interesting.
Bryant discussed a number of topics, from his legacy to former teammates. When asked if he wants to be remembered as the greatest player of all-time, Bryant said it’s impossible for a player to hold that title.
“It’s not important to me,” Bryant said. “It’s impossible. Even with [Michael] Jordan, some people say he’s not the best ever. Some say it’s Magic [Johnson] or Bill Russell. That’s not a goal worth shooting for. I just want to win as many as I can.”
As a follow up, he was asked specifically about surpassing Jordan’s achievements. Bryant said that he can’t compare to Jordan because of how much he’s learned from the legend over the years.
“Of course, I want to win as many as I can so, by that alone, I’m chasing him,” Bryant said. “As long as I’m playing, I want to continue to win more. But it’s never been a direct competition between him and me though because he’s helped me a lot. He hates when I say it, but I’ll say it anyway: I call him and he calls me right back every time. We talk about things, that’s the kind of relationship we have. I’ve learned so much from him so we can’t have a debate about who is better. You know what I mean? He’s directly influenced me.”
Another player that Jordan has directly influenced is Carmelo Anthony, who also came up during the question and answer session. Bryant said that the Lakers were never close to acquiring Anthony at last year’s trade deadline, but that he would have been thrilled with the move. In fact, Bryant was asked which current player he’d most like to team up with and he chose Anthony.
“I would actually like to play with Melo.” Bryant said. “Championships are won on the inside and I’m always thinking about winning the title. I would love to play with Melo because I would know that I have an inside presence. That’s really been the biggest strength with our Lakers team. We have a lot of guys who can play in the post, and that’s how you win championships. I can post, Lamar [Odom] can post, Ron [Artest] can post, Pau [Gasol] can post and Andrew [Bynum] can post. Teams are usually lucky if they have one guy that can control the block. But yeah, I would love to play with Melo.”
While the Lakers have plenty of options in the post now, that wasn’t always the case. Before Gasol was donning purple and gold, Bryant had to play through one of the most frustrating years of his career in 2005. He averaged a career-high 35.4 points, but he didn’t have much help around him.
“I got to say, it was tough doing it that year. I was playing with guys – God bless them – but Kwame Brown, Smush Parker. By the way, what I say here, I say directly to them. I don’t talk behind people’s backs. The things that I say to you, I’m comfortable saying this to them and I’ve said this to them. But, like, the game before we traded for Pau, we’re playing Detroit and I had like 40 points towards the end of the game. This is back when Detroit had Rasheed [Wallace], Chauncey [Billups] and those guys so we had no business being in the game. Down the stretch of the game, they put in a box-and-one so I’m surrounded by these players, Detroit players, and Kwame is under the basket all by himself. Literally, like all by himself. So I pass him the ball, he bobbled it and it goes out of bounds,” Bryant said, rolling his eyes and slamming his hat on the table.
“We go back to the timeout and I’m pissed, right?” Bryant continued. “He goes, ‘Hey, I was wide open.’ ‘Yeah, I know.’ This is how I’m talking to him during the game. I said, ‘You’re going to be open again, Kwame, because Rasheed is just totally ignoring you.’ He said, ‘Well, if I’m open don’t throw it to me.’ I was like, ‘Huh?’ He said, ‘Don’t throw it to me.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ He said, ‘Well, I’m nervous. If I catch it and he fouls me, I won’t make the free throws.’ I said, ‘Hell no!’ I go to Phil [Jackson], I say, ‘Hey Phil, take him out of the game.’ He’s like, ‘Nah, let him figure it out.’ So, we lose the game, I go the locker room, I’m steaming. Steaming. I’m furious. Then, finally I get a call, they said, ‘You know what, we got something that’s happening with Pau.’ I was like, ‘Alright. Cool.’ The first game with Pau, we ran the pick-and-roll and I slipped him the ball. He catches it! I was like, ‘Yes!’ Then, he makes the shot! So, as I’m running back to the timeout, I’m screaming. I’m jumping on Pau’s back. It was like, ‘Oh, I have someone that can play.’ That’s what I had to deal with the whole year. And Smush, I’m not even going to get into that.”
What’s next for Bryant? He has yet to reach a deal with the Italian club Virtus Bologna and he may have attended his last bargaining session, after describing the recent meetings as boring, stupid and repetitive to the UCSB students. Bryant has plenty of options if the lockout continues. If we’re lucky, he’ll do more public speaking and storytelling.
Labor Talks Continue to Stall: When will the NBA’s players and owners meet next? That’s the big question surrounding the NBA’s labor talks. The two sides have yet to schedule a bargaining session for the coming days, which means Monday’s deadline could come and go, cancelling the first two weeks of the regular season.
On Friday, the NBA issued a statement that the owners will not be willing to meet with the players unless they’ll agree to a 50-50 revenue split going into the meeting.
“We told the union today that we were willing to meet as early as Sunday,” said NBA spokesman Tim Frank. “We also advised them that we were unwilling to move above the 50-50 split of revenues that was discussed between the parties on Tuesday, but that we wanted to meet with them to discuss the many remaining open issues. The union declined.”
As Frank stated, there are “many remaining open issues.” While the revenue split has dominated the discussion recently, there are still many system-related issues that need to be worked out.
Sources close to the NBPA told HOOPSWORLD that the NBA’s 50-50 offer was packaged with the owners’ revised system, which involved shortening contracts, eliminating sign-and-trades and reducing the mid-level exception among other changes. If they players are going from 57 percent of revenue to 50 percent, they want the system to remain largely the same. While deciding on a revenue split is important, there is still much work to be done between the two sides.
Once the revenue split is decided, the remaining issues can be worked out over time. However, as David Stern has said on several occasions, “The calendar is not our friend.” The clock is ticking and many issues remain unresolved. While sources believe the two sides will continue to communicate on conference calls, the owners and players need to come to the table if a new collective bargaining agreement is going to be devised.
South Florida All-Star Classic: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will square off tonight in a charity game at Florida International University. The game, which has been dubbed the “South Florida All-Star Classic,” will feature more stars than any other exhibition game that has been played this summer.
It will also be the first charity game that will be broadcast on television, with CBS airing the game locally and CBSMiami.com streaming the game live online. The game is expected to start at 7:30 p.m. ET.
James’ team will include Chris Bosh, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay, Jamal Crawford, Jonny Flynn and Damon Jones.
Wade’s team will include Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, John Wall, Caron Butler, Dorell Wright, Wes Matthews, Mario Chalmers and Eddy Curry.
HOOPSWORLD will be in the building for tonight’s game, so keep an eye out for content and follow on Twitter for updates throughout the evening.
News and Notes: Here are several news and notes from last week.
• While the lockout has kept rookies from signing NBA contracts, it hasn’t stopped them from inking endorsement deals. Iman Shumpert, Marshon Brooks, Alec Burks, Kenneth Faried, Jimmy Butler and Charles Jenkins have signed deals with adidas. Meanwhile, Andrew Goudelock signed a deal with Peak.
• The Oklahoma City Thunder worked out at the University of Kentucky last week. Former UK star Nazr Mohammed organized the workouts, which were attended by most of the team, including Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Rajon Rondo, Josh Smith, Shelvin Mack, Lester Hudson and JaJuan Johnson were also in attendance, training on their own and playing in the pick-up games.
• On Thursday, the Connecticut Huskies received their championship rings at a team banquet. Kemba Walker returned to his old stomping grounds to accept the ring, and tweeted a picture of the bling shortly after. To check out the diamond-covered ring, click here.
HOOPSWORLD Chats: There is only one chat on today’s schedule. Susan Bible’s weekly chat will get underway at 11 p.m. ET. Make sure to submit your questions early because this chat fills up fast. To view HOOPSWORLD”s upcoming chat schedule, click here.