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Kobe Speaks on Retirement, Legacy and Future
Hours after announcing that this will be his final season in the NBA, Kobe Bryant spoke with the media to reflect on the past and look forward to the future.
Below is a full transcription from his postgame presser:
Q: On when he decided to retire:
Bryant: I’ve known for awhile. I’ve always said that if anything changes, it’ll change my mind. The problem is: What does that really mean? You can’t make that decision based on outside circumstances. It has to be an internal decision. Finally I just had to accept the fact that I don’t want to do this anymore, and I’m OK with that. Once I accepted that, it became time to let everybody know. Why not? It takes a load off my shoulders and everybody else’s. It was just the right thing to do.
Q: On if he was emotionally drained in the game:
Bryant: Not really. It was the second game of a back-to-back, so I was drained for other reasons. But I honestly feel good about it. I really feel at peace with it and excited for what’s to come, honestly.
Q: On the hardest part of retiring:
Bryant: Honestly, I don’t know. It’s tough to say now. I think that question becomes a lot easier to answer when training camp comes around next year and I’m not there. I think that question becomes easier to answer. Right now, I honestly feel really at peace with it. I’ve worked to so hard and continue to work really, really hard, even though I play like s—; I work really, really hard to not play like crap. I just do everything I possibly can, and I feel good about that.
Q: On whether he is now willing to accept a farewell tour-like season:
Bryant: No, this is still extremely uncomfortable for me. The amount of respect that I have for the fans on the road, if anything, I should be thanking them. I think just showing mutual appreciation and respect for each other, to me, is enough. I really can’t thank the fans enough. It’s been such a motivator for me and such a catalyst for everything that I’ve accomplished. I have so much respect and love for them.
Q: On what he expects in Tuesday’s game in his hometown of Philadelphia:
Bryant: It’s going to be beautiful. So much of my game was developed in Philadelphia. Lower Merion High School, Coach (Gregg) Downer. Playing in the Sunny Hill League. So many great coaches. Playing at Tustin Playground and all these things. Just so many great memories there. It’s going to be a very, very special moment.
Q: On whether he entered this season thinking this would be his last one:
Bryant: I think you guys could tell. It was like: This is it, but if something happened… But I don’t think you make a decision that way. You have to look inside. If had a burning desire to continue to play, I would. I wouldn’t be second-guessing. I wouldn’t be on the fence. I feel very solid in my decision.
Q: On how he knew this was the end:
Bryant: I don’t want to get too zen-like on you guys, but honestly the decision came in meditation with me. My mind starts drifted and always drifted toward basketball. Always. And it doesn’t do that now. It does that sometimes. It doesn’t do that all the time. And to me that was the first indicator that this game is not something that I can obsess over for much longer.
Q: On if he considered retiring immediately:
Bryant: No, because there’s so much beauty in the pain of this thing. It sounds really weird to say that, but I appreciate the really, really tough times as much as I appreciate the great times. It’s important to go through that progression, because I think that’s where you really learn about the self. There’s nothing I love than to be able to play this entire season; to be able to go through all these tough times and suit up on the road and play in these buildings for the last time — I’m looking forward to that.
Q: On what his family said when he told them he was retiring:
Bryant: “Aww, man!” They’re torn. They understand the concept that this is something I’ve been doing since I was three. It’s like my entire life has been sitting around the game of basketball. It’s like Dad’s losing that passion now. He’s not being able to do that thing he’s done forever. At the same time, you get him around a lot more. They’re excited about that as well.
Q: On his letter in the Players’ Tribune, in which he wrote a poem to the game of basketball:
Bryant: Honestly, it was quick. Once I went through the process of figuring out what I wanted to say and who I was saying it to. It became extremely easy to me once I decided I wanted to speak to the game, which sounds really weird, but I’ve never actually spoken to the game. It’s always been to the fans or teammates or things of that nature — but I’ve never actually told the game how I felt. I decided to write it from that perspective, and the words came in a matter of minutes.
Q: On whether there is sadness in saying goodbye:
Bryant: No, beauty. There’s beauty in that. It’s going through the cycle. It’s a natural progression of growth and maturation. There’s no sadness in that. I’ve had so many great times. I see the beauty in not being able to blow past defenders anymore. I see the beauty of getting up in the morning and being in pain, because I know all the hard work it took to get to this point. I’m not sad about it. I’m very appreciative of what I’ve had.
Q: On accepting that he was at the end of his career:
Bryant: It was great. I continue to push. I continue to try. That never stops. I weight train in the morning, stretch three times a day. When I go home tonight, I’ll stretch again. I’ll ice bath again. When I get up in the morning, I’ll weight train again before the plane. I don’t quit. I’m pushing, pushing and pushing to see if I can figure this damn thing out. That’s who I am. I would never just capitulate to it. I accept it, I understand it. Now I try to figure out how to get around it. I try my best, and I’ll keep on going.
Q: On his letter to the fans that everyone in attendance received at Sunday’s game:
Bryant: They’ve got to know how much they’ve meant to me. And a letter doesn’t do it justice, honestly. I grew up here. People don’t understand how much I take that; why I would never — despite many offers — go someplace else. That just would not happen. This is my home, and I wanted to let them know how much they meant to me. How much I appreciate them. Even a letter can’t do it justice.
Q: On whether he talked to any former players before deciding:
Bryant: I’ve talked to several players. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to pick up the phone and speak to a lot of my muses and kind of get their perspective on what they’ve been through. But ultimately, it was a decision that I had to make. What do I feel? Do I want to play again or don’t I? It’s a very simple question, but it’s a hard question to look in the mirror and ask yourself. The reality is: No, I don’t. So why labor it?
Q: On whether he considers life after basketball frightening or exciting:
Bryant: Both, but it’s fantastic. It’s great.
Q: On how he envisions his life a year from now:
Bryant: I don’t know. There are obviously things that I’m extremely passionate about, and I’ll go after them with everything I have and carry a lot of the lessons that I’ve learned from the game into my various endeavors, and be as passionate about them as I was about the game.
Q: On the potential for him crying during his farewell:
Bryant: That’s not going to happen on the court (laughs). It ain’t gonna happen there, man. But if I said I wasn’t getting a little emotional about it, I’d be lying. It’s a little different when you know internally that this is it, and when you actually voice it. Now it’s out there. There’s a certain a level of finality to it that adds a little more. The coolest thing is the messages that I’ve received from other players. They say, “Thank you for the inspiration. Thank you for the lessons, the mentality.” Those things are honestly those that mean the most to me — that respect from the peers. There’s nothing in the world that can top that.
Q: On what he considers his impact on the NBA:
Bryant: When we played Detroit, I was kind of zoned out when we had the captains’ meeting. You’re allowed two captains. I go out there and there’s Andre Drummond and the other captain. There’s another player up there, and I couldn’t see because he was behind Andre Drummond. The official says, “You can’t have three. You’re only allowed two.” (He says,) “I just wanted to shake his hand.” (laughs) … I couldn’t see him. He was behind Andre Drummond. All I saw was a hand coming out from behind Andre, and I shook it. … All these players that I speak to and they call me frequently with questions. That means more to me than anything else: the impact, mentality, aggression and work ethic.
Q: On how having outside passions allows him to be more comfortable with retirement:
Bryant: It probably helps me to be a lot more comfortable and more at peace with my decision. I’m not held slave to my passion. To be honest with you, it really took me a long time to find out what it is that I wanted to do (after basketball) — 15 years to be exact. I think that’s a struggle for a lot of us athletes: to figure out what comes next. I was very fortunate to be asking those questions at a very early age: 21 years old. And it took me 15 years to try to figure it out. And it’s tough, because you get caught up in the cycle of: “OK, what’s the biggest market I can get into? How I can monetize this and that?” Those are absolutely the wrong questions to ask.
Q: On what caused him to ask those questions so early
Bryant: I had a lot of curiosity, and I was in Milan and wanted to meet with Giorgio Armani and talk to him a little bit about how he built his business. He said he started to build his business at the age of 40, and I was 21. I said to myself, “I’ll probably play to 35, 36, whatever the case may be. He built a whole business at 40. What am I going to do with the rest of my life? What comes next?” From that point on, I started figuring things out, trying different things. Dabbling in this, dabbling in that, trying to figure out what exactly that passion is. It’s not as easy as basketball, because I was born to play basketball and had to really work to figure out what comes next. That’s really hard, man — really, really hard. But that’s what we as athletes have to figure out.
Q: On if he knows what’s next for him:
Bryant: Absolutely, I’m a storyteller. I love, love, love storytelling. I love framing stories that inspire. I love educating in a very creative way. I love putting pieces of the puzzle together. I didn’t know that was there until it came time to make the “Muse” film. Then I was like, “Oh, this is actually pretty fun.” That burning desire is there.
Q: On if it’s still a goal for him to be on the 2016 U.S. Olympic National Team:
Bryant: No, I’d be honored if that was there. It would be fantastic to be around that group and spend kind of the last journey with them. That being said, it’s not something that I’m obsessing over.
Q: On what he considers the best part of his story:
Bryant: The (championships) that we’ve lost and the struggles to get there. That completes the journey. If you just have championships, there’s no antagonists. There’s no up-and-down. It’s the ugly moments that create the beauty at the end of the film. Those the moments that I truly appreciate.
Q: On if he talked with Phil Jackson prior to announcing his decision:
Bryant: He said, “Break the season up into sections.” Phil understands. He and I understand each other. He said, ‘Break the season into sections. Just take it one chunk at a time and try to get through it.”
Q: On what he wants to impart on his young teammates:
Bryant: It starts with the aggressiveness and that killer mentality of trying to figure things out by any means necessary. And then breaking things down into the most minute details, which is very hard to get conceptually. I continue to try to work with them to help them figure it out. It’s not going to be the last season of doing that. I’ll always be around for them and other players around the league.
Q: On whether announcing his decision affects his plan for the year:
Bryant: I’ve always said from when I came into camp that if I can play, I will. That’s the right thing to do. If I can play, I absolutely will. If I can play 30 minutes, I’ll play 30 minutes. If I can play only 15, I’ll play 15 and just do the best I can to try to win the ballgame and help the young guys out.
Q: On his favorite moment:
Bryant: Nothing beats getting drafted. Nothing tops that. You dream about that moment. That’s the beginning of it all.
Q: On how he wants to be remembered:
Bryant: The fact that I’m talked about in the company of Magic (Johnson) and Cap (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Like I’ve made it. That’s enough for me. I was a Laker diehard growing up. That’s good enough for me. I’ve just been extremely fortunate. How many kids can say growing up that they’ll turn pro and play for their favorite team in the world and spend your entire career there? It’s been a dream.
Q: On how he will measure success this season:
Bryant: Start by winning the next game. It’s taking it game-by-game and really following Phil’s advice, which is breaking the season up into sections and playing the game that’s in front of you. Try to win that and move to the next one.
Q: On balancing helping the young players with himself:
Bryant: It’s the same old thing. You just work extremely hard, come out, try to play better than the game before. Continue to try to teach, continue to try to help and try to improve my own play. Just trying like crazy to get better.
Q: On whether Michael Jordan offered any advice:
Bryant: He was actually one of the first people that I told over the summer. We’ve been in frequent contact. … (I told him,) “This is it. And how the hell did you know this was it for you?” We had some laughs back and forth about it. The important thing from him was to just enjoy it no matter what. Just enjoy it. Don’t let anybody take that away from you, no matter what happens. Good or bad, enjoy it.
Q: On when he decided to announce his retirement and give his letter out to fans:
Bryant: It’s pretty quick. I called the team and said, “This is what I’m doing.” “OK, when?” “In like a couple days.” “What?” We put the wheels in motion pretty quickly.
Q: On accepting that his body is failing him:
Bryant: It’s funny. I’ve learned that you’ve got to roll with things. You can’t resist it. You have to self-assess. I’m pretty brutal with self-assessment. Then try to do all you can to get better. Then you roll with whatever happens, continually pursuing improvement. I’m fine with that. I can look myself in the mirror. I’ve tried and tried and tried and worked extremely hard since I was a young kid. That’s why I feel extremely confident. I’ve left no stone unturned.
Q: On being the older guy in the locker room:
Bryant: I feel like their grandfather. I’m not like the older guy, I’m the triple OG. LeBron (James) and them, they’re the old guys now. And I’m way older than them.They’re vets, and I’m like a triple vet. It’s fun, honestly. I remember playing Portland here, and a kid from the bench said something to me: “Hey, we’re gonna beat you guys tonight!” I looked at him and said, “I’ve got one rule: If you weren’t born when I started playing, you can’t talk trash.” It’s a simple rule. And he just looked and (said,) “Yes, sir.” (laughs) No argument.
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