Kobe Bryant recently joined Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose in a podcast to discuss his career with Shaq, his legacy as a Laker, and other NBA and personal topics.
We listened to the whole interview so you don’t have to–and share some of the best parts below.
On taking a lead role for the Lakers, starting in the 2000 playoffs:
It was [my coming out moment]. I didn’t realize it at the time, at the time it just felt like I was just playing basketball. I had worked on that pull-up shot all summer, so it just felt like I was in a gym again by myself, just doing what I’d been training to do. A shot that I’d taken thousands and thousands of times.
But for us, during those teams, during those eras, I was the taskmaster, I was driving the team, I was bringing out that emotion, that aggression, by any means necessary. I was kicking them in the butt all the time. Shaq and I played off of each other that way. He was a guy that would put his arm around teammates and giving them encouragement. During that time, that was just naturally who we are, but at the same time Shaq had a lot of dog in him and he would rip your head off in order to win.
On his drive to work:
I never looked at it as work, I didn’t realize it was work until my first year in the NBA, when I came around I was surrounded by other professionals, and I thoguht basketball was going to be everything to them and it wasn’t. I’m like, ‘this is different.’ I thought everybody was obsessive about the game like me. I was like, ‘oh, so that’s hard work.’
On when he’s going to retire:
I’m just going to play, it wouldn’t be true to who I’ve been my entire career to do a farewell tour. First of all, it would feel weird. To have these celebrations. I’d much rather they treat me the way they’ve been treating me my entire career–that’s a sign of respect to me. … When do you know? It’s like when you stand at halfcourt and we’re all taking halfcourt shots, just kind of goofing around, you make one and you’re like ‘let me see if I can make another one.’ Make another one. ‘Let me see if I can make another one.’ And then you miss. ‘Well, I can’t end on a miss. Let me keep going.’ So then you make one. ‘I wonder if I can make another one?’ And it goes on and on and on. The cycle just repeats itself. So at what point do you say ‘enough is enough, it’s time to walk away from this thing.’ I don’t know if that moment ever truly exists. You kind of have to feel it inside of yourself and say ‘you know what I’m ready to move on and do something else.’
On getting to choose when to retire:
It’s a good issue to have. It’s a good issue to have. It is what it is. I understand that no matter when that time comes, I understand that a year from that moment, I’m going to want to play again, right? Because you’re going to miss it. And I accept that.
On importance of remaining a Laker:
It’s of utmost importance. I was such a diehard Lakers fan growing up. And just my personality. For me to ask for a trade, or to go play someplace else to try to chase a championship, that’s not me man. That’s not what my career has been about. That’s not who I am. I stay with it. Stuff that I’ve been through in my life, been through in my career, if it’s taught me anything it’s the fact that you’ll have good moments, you’ll have bad moments, you’ll have great moments, you’ll have horrible moments, you just keep going through all of them and things work themselves out.
On being with the Lakers 20 years, next season:
Honestly, I’ve just been very fortunate to be with a great organization, but I also understand that you have to take the good with the bad. you the captain of the ship, you go down with the ship. You don’t jump off the ship and swim to another one. It just depends on what your philosophy is, I’m not sitting here saying my philosophy is the right way, right? It’s my way, this is how I choose to do it, and some people may agree it and some people may not. Is it hurting me right now? Yeah, is it, I could be playing someplace else.
On the criticism that Russell Westbrook faces and the dynamic at the end of games between the two stars:
I don’t think Russell pays much attention to it. I didn’t. Because you have your blinders on. And your completely focused on what your team needs to do and what you have to do to help that team be successful. Russell, I believe, has the same mentality that I have had. Which is that it doesn’t matter. I’m going to go out here and play hard regardless of what they say.
It’s good for the team to have consistency, so you know who that player is going to be and the team knows who is responsible for delivering down the stretch. With Russell and KD, there is certain things Russell does better than KD and vice versa. I think Russell’s demeanor, his aggression is what the DNA of a team should be. He’s just aggressive all the time. But I think KD’s skill to get whatever shot he wants, get to the free throw line, shoot a high percentage down the stretch are what his core strengths should be.
On Westbrook being Kobe’s successor:
In approach to the game: 100 percent. He’s aggressive and he’s unapologetic about it. At the same time, there are other 2-guards around the league that have similar skills in terms of being able to shoot the long ball, mid-range, post-up. James Harden, Klay Thompson. There’s some 2-guards around the league that you see are developing all aspects of their game.
On whether it matters that Westbrook and Durant are friends:
No. It doesn’t. Not even a little bit. It makes the environment more enjoyable when you’re getting along with somebody. But at the end of the day, if you have the respect of each other to go out and perform that should trump a great friendship. In other words, you can be great friends with somebody on the team and not win anything. But you were great friends. You can all sit back 50 years form now and enjoy the fact that you got along extremely well, we went out to dinner and had fun. Or you can have a combative relationship, win championships, then sit back in 50 years as friends and be able to talk about the championships you won.
On if he was relieved when Harden was traded:
Absolutely. Because we lost the series we lost against them because of James. We had nobody that could match up with him. Nobody. He was the problem for us and created so much balance because he was such a great facilitator. It enabled Russell to be Russell and KD to be KD. He was a matchup nightmare for us.
On the Thunder’s title window:
Time goes by really, really quickly. But it hurts them with the cap restrictions to not be able to keep James Harden. (Simmons: They could have kept him) But then you’d have to lose Ibaka. So you gotta make choices. You draft extremely well, you develop these incredible young players, and then you gotta make a choice and lose them. It’s got to be one or the other. And that set them back, man.
On the famous (and infamous) Kings-Lakers playoff series:
Sacramento series, I still don’t know how we beat them. They were kicking our butt. Every game, they started out up 20. It was insane. And the fact that we were able to muscle through that–I think they weren’t used to being in pressure situations, because in game 7 (Simmons: they started airballing threes), right. They felt the pressure, we were used to it, we took advantage.