With Kobe Bryant announcing his retirement at the end of the season, head coach Byron Scott gave his thought’s on the five-time champion’s career and legacy.
Below is a transcription of Scott’s thoughts from his pregame press conference before facing the Indiana Pacers.
Q: On his reaction to Bryant’s announcement:
Scott: Sad. We talked about it last night. I told him he kind of shocked me when he told me. It’s more sad than anything. Somebody who I truly care about, have a lot of respect for. I think it’s always hard when greatness like Kobe decides to hang it up. I think, for him, going through the stress that we’re going through and also that we still have sixty-whatever games left — you get a chance to go around to all these NBA cities, and they can show their appreciation for what he’s been able to accomplish in this league is great.
Q: On whether he will play on Sunday against Indiana:
Scott: Yep. … Keep (his minutes) the same unless I see him laboring or anything like that.
Q: On the context in which Bryant told him he’s retiring:
Scott: He just brought it up. That’s something that’s between Kobe and myself. We talked about it last night. We’ll leave it at that.
Q: On whether he thought Bryant had more years left in him:
Scott: I don’t know if he had more years left in him. I thought he at least had another year left in him.
Q: On whether he thought Bryant’s recent struggles are temporary:
Scott: I did, and I still do. This season isn’t over. We still have a lot of games left. I know his purpose is to finish out this season and play. I don’t know what he’s thinking as far as playing well or getting back to somewhere near the level he’s accustomed to getting. I think that when you decide that this is it, you’ve also come to grips that you’re not the same player you used to be. But I think he still loves this game. He still has a passion for it. He still is a competitive young man. And I think he wants to go out that way.
Q: On if this makes a farewell tour-type season inevitable:
Scott: I hope so. I think that he’ll definitely get appreciation from fans. I don’t know about it being considered a farewell tour or anything like that. But I think just the fact that when he goes to all these stadiums for the last time, people will show their respect.
Q: On whether it’s meaningful that their next game is in Bryant’s hometown of Philadelphia:
Scott: I don’t know. I think it’ll be interesting. … They boo anybody there. City of Brotherly Love, right? I think he’s going to view it the same as he’s done every game. He’s gonna go out there and try to win and play the best he can. I don’t know if he’ll think about the outcome as far as how the fans will view him or respect him. It’s home for him, so I think they’ll show their appreciation. The one thing with Philly fans, just like New York fans, they’re very knowledgable about the game.
Q: On his initial reaction:
Scott: I said, ‘What?’ He just told me at a very awkward time. It kind of caught me off guard. He just starting laughing about it. He said, ‘You look like: What the hell are you talking about?” It just caught me off guard.
Q: On whether he tried to persuade Bryant not tor retire:
Scott: No, I didn’t.
Q: On if Bryant told him why he’s retiring:
Scott: He didn’t.
Q: On when Bryant told him:
Scott: That’s between Kobe and I: when it happened and all that stuff. If he wants to tell you, that’s up to him.
Q: On if he told any of his teammates before he announced his retirement:
Scott: He told me when he announced it to me that I was the first to know.
Q: On how not having ambiguity about his future affects the present:
Scott: I don’t know yet. I thought about it all last night, on the plane and this morning. It’s just been on my mind for whatever reason. Maybe it’s just because of our relationship; knowing that this is the end for him. I don’t know what dynamics it will have in the next two weeks, two months, three months. But like I said, at that particular time I was shocked, and after I had a chance to think about it, it was sad.
Q: On what he remembers about playing and coaching with Bryant:
Scott: Everything. I can go all the way back to when he was just this young guy out there shooting in the dark at the Forum before the lights came on and (with) practice two or three hours away. To this point where he’s still at the practice facility two, three hours before everybody else, getting shots up. I have, obviously, great memories of spending a lot of time with him as a rookie and then getting the chance to spend his last year as a basketball player.
Q: On whether Bryant acknowledging this is the end affects how Scott plans on utilizing him:
Scott: I don’t know if I’ll change that much as far as that I still want him to play. I still want him to go out on a very positive note. I think there’s a part of me that feels that he’s still going to have those glimmers of having some of those games I know he’s capable of having. I don’t know how many or few it may be, but I think that’s still a hope that I have.
Q: On whether it’s hard to accept that Bryant’s career is nearly over:
Scott: Absolutely. I witnessed an 18-year-old that came in this league that told me two months after the season (when) I asked him what he wanted to be in this league — he told me, ‘The Best.’ I saw that come to light for a long period of time. So yeah, it’s hard to kind of see, especially somebody you care about.
Q: On whether he has seen his relationship with Bryant as a symbol of Showtime giving way to his era:
Scott: I don’t know if I’ve looked at it that deep. I’ve just kind of looked at it as an old veteran as myself at that particular time trying to teach a young man what it was to be a professional in this league, and what it was to play for purple and gold. And I think he took it to heart. And as much as he’s said that I gave him so much, it was kind of the other way around. I was, at that time, retiring and was with this 18-year-old that had so many high hopes and the playfulness that most kids do when they’re playing this game. It made me feel young again. I think we gave a little bit of ourselves to each other when he was at 18 years old, and that relationship has just continued.
Q: On whether Bryant seemed at peace with his decision:
Scott: He did. … It was so matter-of-factly, and it was so at peace. After I thought about it, I felt better about that. It wasn’t like he was agonizing over it or anything. He was just like, ‘I’m gonna announce that I’m retiring.’ He just kind of went on from there.
Q: On whether he had any concerns that Bryant wouldn’t know when to retire due to his competitive nature:
Scott: No, even as competitive as he is — and other players that have been in his position or somewhere close — they pretty much know when the time is there. When he said that to me, I was shocked but also knew that he knew that it was time.
Q: On how Bryant’s retirement process compares to Scott’s old teammates, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Magic Johnson:
Scott: With Kareem, I was still playing, so I was young. Magic was under different circumstances. It was different.
Q: On what it’s like for Bryant’s young teammates:
Scott: I think it depends on the young guy that you’re talking to. … D’Angelo (Russell) wasn’t born. … When (Bryant) broke into the league and really took off in his third or fourth year in the league, a lot of these guys were two, three years old. Obviously he’s had an impression on a whole lot of young basketball players, and fans as well.
Q: On whether he called anybody after Bryant told him:
Scott: I didn’t tell anybody. He told me it was between me and him.
Q: On whether he wants Bryant to change his playing style due to recent shooting struggles:
Scott: No. And he’s done a good job of this with Jordan last year and D’Angelo this year: I just want him to mentor these (young) guys a little bit more — on the court and off the court. These are still a bunch of puppies. I just hope they understand who they’ve been around for the last couple of months, and try to spend as much time with him as possible these next six or seven months, and try to pick his brain as much as possible.
Q: On if he’s OK with Bryant’s volume of shots:
Scott: I want him to keep shooting, but I want him to have that balance as well.
Q: On what he wants from Bryant in his last season:
Scott: What I want from Kobe is basically for his last game to be able to walk off the floor, wave to all the fans and be able to go into the locker room standing up.
Q: On the way fans have treated him on the road already this season:
Scott: Even in Portland last night, I’ve never seen so many (No.) 24 gold jerseys in Portland’s arena. Never. They’re fans chanted every time he made a shot just as loudly almost as when their guys made shots. I think it’s definitely something that’s been coming. Even before the announcement, fans have been trying to show their appreciation. even more so now.