After 20 years in the NBA and an insane, 60-point finale on Wednesday, Kobe Bryant delivered the final press conference of his career.
The 37-year-old touched on an array of topics regarding his past present and future.
Below is a full transcription from Staples Center.
Q: On if he was nervous, and determined to go out with both guns blazing:
Bryant: I didn’t watch the news, I didn’t watch any of the commentary or read anything, because then it just would make me extremely emotional. I knew coming into tonight that I just didn’t want to play bad. I had to kind of focus on the game. The start of the game was horrendous. I had to settle down. But I had a little bit of nerves. Once the game got going a little bit, I was able to settle down.
On if this was the perfect ending for him:
Bryant: The perfect ending would have been a championship. That’s a perfect ending to me. Tonight was trying to go out playing hard and try to put on a show as much as I possibly could. It felt good to be able to do that one last time.
Q: On if he’d accept a script like this for his new company:
Bryant: After debates in the story room of why winning a championship is not in the question, then yes, I’d have accepted this one.
Q: On scoring 60 points in his final game:
Bryant: Honestly, I can’t believe this actually happened, to be honest with you. This is kind of crazy to me, the last game at home. It’s hard for me to believe that it happened this way, it really is. I m still in shock about it. Just the outpour of support all night long, from former teammates, fans, and family. It was just unbelievable. I’m still in shock about it. Now I’ll allow myself to go back and read a lot of the things and watch some of the commentary and videos, just kind of take it all in, you know?
Q: On the most memorable part of tonight’s game:
Bryant: I think the fans, the reaction of the fans, the chanting, the support, the encouragement. I mean I was really, really tired. I just had to continue to push. The fans’ support was tremendous. I think that is the thing that I’m going to remember the most.
Q: On his saying he’ll go back to work tomorrow:
Bryant: I have to. That’s a very slippery slope. I’ve done my research from players, post [career], and it’s kind of like, ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.’ Then all of the sudden it’s, ‘Uh oh.’ So I think the important thing is to get into a routine, to maintain discipline, to find a new routine. I have been in a certain routine my entire career. I think the worst thing I can possibly do is not have one because then you wake up without a sense of purpose or a sense of direction. So, I have to find a routine, get into it, and be comfortable in it.
Q: On trying to approach this game as any other game:
Bryant: It didn’t work out that way, in a good way. There were so many people to talk to, items to be signed, pictures to be taken. I just gave myself up to that. I just said, ‘This is fine, this is cool. Let it go, let it ride, enjoy it.’ It was fun.
Q: On if he ever got emotional tonight:
Bryant: “There were a lot of points there where I started getting emotional, you know. When we first ran out of the tunnel, I caught myself. I put on my jersey and I say, ‘Okay. This is the last time you're going to put on a jersey.’ Dun Dun Dun. Then, it’s the last time I’ll run out of the tunnel. Dun Dun Dun. Then when those moments happen, you catch yourself getting really emotional. Then you say, ‘Okay. You have to block that out because none of that makes a difference.’ That’s when you come out there and completely lay an egg, completely mess up the situation so you have to concentrate and focus. Then you can be nostalgic all you want later tonight and tomorrow.
Q: On what it meant to hear Magic Johnson call him the greatest Laker ever, and if he watched the tribute videos:
Bryant: I refuse to believe it because Magic is my hero. Like, I don’t think you guys truly understand how much of a diehard Lakers fan I was. Magic was all over my wall. I used to wear really big knee pads because Magic wore really bad kneepads. I used to practice the baby hook. He is, and always will be No. 1 for me. Always. Always. The tribute videos, I was able to peek up and look from time to time. I enjoyed them all, man. Hopefully I’ll get a chance at some point to look at them all and kind of take it all in.
Q: On what he was thinking when he left the floor for a final time:
Bryant: Don’t trip … (laughs). No … it’s surreal, it’s hard to describe. It’s almost like you’re in a fog, and everything is moving extremely slow yet extremely fast. You’re trying to take it all in, not quite sure where to look. It’s very difficult to do, but it was just like a dream.
Q: On his daughters watching him go for 60:
Bryant: The coolest thing is that my kids actually saw me play like I used to play. It was like, ‘Whoa, dad!’ I said, ‘Yeah, I used to do this pretty often.’ They were like, ‘really?’ I said, ‘Dude, YouTube it.' You know what I mean? It was pretty cool for them to actually see that.
Q: On reflecting on scoring 60:
Bryant: I can’t believed this happened. This is crazy to me. It’s crazy. What? There’s no way I could possibly imagine this happen. I’m deeply honored by the fans. To be able to put on that type of show for them, because of all the support they’ve given me. How we grew up together — the fans that have been coming here since day one. To give them this type of show on the last one means everything.
Q: On what he and his teammates have been saying to one another:
Bryant: My teammates were just continuing to encourage me and continuing to say, “Shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot.” It’s like reverse. It’s a weird year. You go from being the villain to now being some type of a hero; and go from everybody saying, “Pass the ball,” to “Shoot the ball.” It’s like really strange. But I enjoyed it. They were very encouraging; continuing to feed me, set picks for me and stuff. I just felt a sense of responsibility to continue to play. There were times where I drove to the basket and my legs were just like, “What, are you nuts?” I just throw the ball up and it goes in, like: “Thank god.”
Q: On how vital hate from opponents and their fans was to his career:
Bryant: Extremely necessary for me. That’s what I fed off of, and I think, at that time, to be embraced would’ve been like kryptonite for me. Those dark emotions were what I used to drive me. That isolation. That’s what I grew up comfortable in. I would refuse to allow anything else but that. Even saying things that create some type of animosity to just continue to use that as fuel to propel me forward. It was extremely, extremely necessary. If you wanted to beat me, all you had to do was embrace me at the time and I would’ve been done (laughs).
Q: On what it was like to be at the center of the moment:
Bryant: It’s surreal. It really is. What I tried to do is not think about it. I tried to go through my routine as normal as possible and think about the craft. Think about the game: who you’re matching up with; how’s the defense gonna play you. And try to go back to the basics — not think too much about the bigness of the moment. Just focus on those details.
Q: On being able to be more openly happy publicly, as opposed to his usual hate-filled persona:
Bryant: I’m both, just like everybody in this room. It’s a very simple concept when you think about it. We’re all both. We all have a little hero and villain inside of us. It’s just depending on perspective. One day we were driving back from school with my kids and we were having a conversation about villains in movings. I think we were talking about Voldemort. They asked me, “Well, what makes a villain a villain?” I was like, “Oh, is this one of those ‘daddy moments’ where you can’t mess up something?” I thought about it — and me and my kids are all allergic to bees — I said: “If a bee’s flying around your head, what are you going to do?” They said, “I’m going to take a magazine, roll it up and try to knock it out of the air.” I said, “OK, to you is the bee the hero or the villain?” She goes, “The villain.” I go, “What about the bee that’s flying around minding its own business. Is it the hero or the villain?” She goes, “Well, I’d be the villain.” I say, “Exactly, it’s all about perspective.” (laughs) So I think that’s the simple way to describe it. We all are both. It depends on what perspective you’re looking at it from.
Q: On scoring 60 points on the same night that Golden State won its NBA-record 73rd game:
Bryant: This has been an amazing day for sports fans, basketball fans in particular. It’s been a great day with them setting such an unbelievable record. You think about that: 73 wins. That’s ridiculous. Then, obviously, what happened here tonight. It’s been a great night in basketball history, I think.
Q: On what he would say to his fans on the other side of the world:
Bryant: Ni hao, and I”ll see you soon.
Q: On how draining it was to go through the day’s emotions:
Bryant: Seeing everything that was taking place before — I was enjoying it and very appreciative of it. Then I quickly got right back to my center of: “OK, you’ve gotta go out there and perform.” So I was able to focus and try not to get too emotional, because I feel like that would take away from my performance. Despite my best efforts, you could still see at the start of the game that I was still nervous and still emotional and had to settle down.
Q: On slowing down in the third quarter:
Bryant: I was tired, but you’ve got to push through it. Saving it for what? I was just hoping I didn’t hurt something. That would be a buzzkill.
Q: On if this is the last time anybody will see him play basketball:
Bryant: Now with Twitter and Instagram and all this other stuff, you might catch a glimpse of me shooting in a gym or playground or something like that. That’s about it.
Q: On this being his last game:
Bryant: I feel great. I feel extremely happy. This is a very joyful day to be able to have this experience and have this moment. I would never play an NBA game again. I know people say, “Never say never,” — never.
Q: On entering the locker room for the final time:
Bryant: “Uh-oh,” — that’s what I thought. This is really happening. I had those moments all day today where the memories come in. Putting on my jersey, socks, sneakers — like this is the last time you’re going through this. Then having to (say), “OK, I still have to go out and play.” Those moments were there throughout the entire day — preparing for the game at home; icing the ankles, knees, shoulders; getting dressed. All of that stuff, going through it for the last time.
Q: On what parts of his career stick out most to him:
Bryant: Personally, I think the three seasons in a row of having season-ending injuries. After the Achilles, it was like, “OK, that was one major, major injury. I can come back from this one. People say I can’t but I will.” I came back and was kind of working myself back into it and then fractured a knee. I was like, “Here we go.” Then trying to do that and tearing the should. It was like, “You’ve got to be kidding.” To try to climb up that mountain and get knocked down three years in a row and try to bounce back again — I’m just happy to sit here healthy, having finished the season. Those three years are the thing that I think sticks out most to me, because internally that was the most challenging.
Q: On if he ever felt like he was in a different moment of time while playing his final game:
Bryant: Yes, that was the beauty of it. It’s kind of like an inner struggle. You want to try to appreciate the moment, but to appreciate the moment you must know where you are. And when you appreciate it and know where you are, it takes you out of your zone and your rhythm. So it was a constant dance. What you saw tonight was, “OK, take three, four shots in a row. Oh man, I can’t believe this is happening.” Miss the next five. Then you try to settle yourself back in. So it’s a constant dance of just trying to accept the moment versus trying to digest the moment.
Q: On if he thinks he’ll ever find something he’s as good or passionate at as basketball:
Bryant: Passionate? Absolutely. I love the art of storytelling. It’s hard for people to understand that, but I do this every day, all day. I was at the office today from 8 to 2. I love it. I absolutely love it. Will I be as good at it? I don’t know, but I’m going to leave no stone unturned in the art of storytelling, just like I have my entire basketball career. That I will promise you.
Q: On if he ever doubted whether he’d be able to make it to the end of the season healthy:
Bryant: Yeah, I had plenty of those times. It’s a great sense of accomplishment to be able to close the season out healthy, and not only healthy but feeling strong. But there was a time there — I think it was after the Dallas game or earlier in the season — where it was just horrendous. I didn’t make anything. And I was just think, like, “How is this possible? I know how much work I put in the summertime. Maybe this is just Father Time and this is just what happens.” That was a very, very tough moment for me, because I didn’t know if I could pull myself up. Then I decided: You know what? The hell with this thing. I’m gonna have to figure this out. And I continued to struggle like a month and a half after that. What else are you gonna do? Just gonna keep going. That was the moment where I was like, “I don’t know if I could do this thing.”
Q: On Staples Center nearly selling out all of its merchandise:
Bryant: (Laughs) It says that the fans are really appreciative of this moment and want to have something that they can maybe remember this night by.
Q: On what the Lakers’ young players need to do now that he’s gone:
Bryant: What I told them in the locker room after the game is the most important thing in this offseason, and that’s for them to really work together. It’s easy in the summertime for them to break apart. But it’s really important for the younger guys — D’Angelo (Russell), Jordan (Clarkson), (Julius) Randle — to continue to stay in touch and to work together and to continue to figure out, together, where you like the ball, this rhythm, watch film together. They have to build this thing as a unit. That was my message to them. Secondly, you’ve got to be in the gym all day. I said, “The reason I can stand here in front of you guys and feel extremely comfortable is because I gave my soul to this game. There’s nothing more I can give. Nothing.” I said, “If you guys feel like that at the end of your career, you will be just as comfortable as I am. But I’m telling you, it goes by fast. If you don’t give it your all, you’re going to regret it. You’re absolutely going to regret it. Don’t be that guy. Get yourself in the gym. Work as hard as you possibly can. And hopefully they got the message.
Q: On working with the young Lakers in the future:
Bryant: Y’all won’t see me doing it, but I’ll be doing it, though (laughs). They know that when they drop by Orange County, they’re more than welcome. But yeah, I’ll be working with the guys and talking to them — other players around the league, too. I love the game. I love to share the knowledge that I’ve accumulated and the knowledge that’s been passed down to me from the great players that came before. I’ll definitely be sharing that — in Orange County, though.
Q: On whether he didn’t want to take off his jersey:
Bryant: Yeah, let’s go with that. I just figured tonight I’d come in here early, because I know you’ve got deadlines and stuff. It’s not like I have to ice (tonight). What takes a long time is when I have to ice and stretch. What am I doing that for — the treadmill tomorrow? I’m able to come in here a lot faster and get going. I walked into the locker room and they sprayed me with champagne. I’m like, “That’s only for championships, but all right.” I’m smelling a little bit like champagne, but on a serious note, you’re right. Keeping this jersey on and taking it off is going to be really, really strange.
Q: On how the energy of the night’s game compared to Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals:
Bryant: The energy in Game 7 was high energy, but it was a very nervous energy. It was very intense. The fans wanted to explode, but they didn’t know if they could or if they should, because everybody was just on pins and needles. It was like watching a scary movie. Everybody’s just sitting there. You don’t want to really move, because you don’t want to jinx the situation. That’s the energy of Game 7 until we finally won and the place erupted. Tonight, it was more festive. There wasn’t the pressure. It was more just a celebration. That energy is completely different, but both intense. Just different forms of intensity.
Lakers Reporter Mike Trudell contributed to this transcription.