It’s safe to say, Kobe Bryant has never been one to struggle with self-doubt. While detractors will point to this fact as one of his greatest faults, I would argue that this supreme confidence is a large part of what has made him great for the better part of two decades.
During a recent interview with Chris Palmer of ESPN, Bryant displayed that level of brash self-assuredness that has driven his opponent’s crazy for 17 years, and shows precisely why he’s still going strong. While he had plenty to say about his one-on-one battles with guys like Tracy McGrady and even hypothetical battles with Michael Jordan and LeBron James, his quotes about the development of his game:
At the end of 2003, my game was complete. Shooting, defense, using the dribble, transition, midrange stuff was all there. Then it was about fine-tuning and trying to improve in each area. People think the footwork stuff is new, but I’ve always had great footwork. If you go back and look at film from 10 years ago, it’s all there: up-and-unders, spin moves, everything. I’ve been interested in footwork and how it benefits you since I was 8 or 9 years old. That’s just the way I was taught the game. The technical parts of the game always interested me.
A few years back, he was asked if he could ever see himself being an NBA head coach. To the surprise of no one, Bryant scoffed and openly laughed at the idea. While I could never imagine Bryant permanently jutting out the Mamba Jaw in the huddle, I could see him hosting foot-work clinics similar to those of Hakeem Olajuwon’s summer workouts. I know if I were an up-and-coming basketball player, guard or big man, I’d certainly inquire about joining him for his vaunted 3 AM workout sessions.
When asked about whether he would score 50 points in a single game or not, his answer was about as predictable as it could be. While most players would either deflect the question or even steer the conversation towards something else, Bryant continues to embrace the role as one of the most dynamic scoring threats the league has ever seen with a “yeah, it’ll happen.”
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the interview, when Bryant was asked about whether he’s ever tempted to go back and marvel over some of his career accomplishments such as the iconic 81-point game:
To this day I’ve never seen that game. I don’t feel the need to watch it. What am I going to learn? I don’t watch those tapes. If I’m watching film it’s usually for an upcoming opponent.
I’m not saying that I expected Bryant to say he plays the highlight clips of that game on YouTube each night before bed, but I couldn’t have faulted him for looking back on it (say, with his daughters) for a reason as simple as the historical significance of such feats. One thing is certain, even at the tender age of 34, Bryant doesn’t seem to be backing down from any challenge placed before him. His candor and cut-throat honesty may cause displeasure to some, but it is like music to my ears.
Even though Bryant may not watch his own clips, that doesn’t mean we can’t take the opportunity to re-watch some of his highlights. Hats off to whomever was responsible for working in the old school Dogg Pound instrumental into the mix: