Young, fresh, excited and new. But not naive. And certainly not intimidated. At the innocent age of 18, and just months removed from his high school graduation line, Kobe Bryant was in the NBA, and neither would ever be the same.
His bounce and energy and amazing basketball maturity was evident from the jump. The special athletes look like they belong the moment they reach the highest of levels. And Kobe belonged, as the Warriors discovered one night in his rookie season when he showed the variety of skills that would last 20 seasons.
After a rookie season in which he dropped numerous hints of the promise that the Lakers and many others projected for him, Kobe was officially on a star watch. The Lakers brought him along slowly, careful to make sure he didn’t step into many potholes along the journey, and the process was necessary because of his youth. That said, it was evident, from his teammates and then-coach Del Harris, that Kobe was moving in the right direction, at the right speed. So much was at stake: His career, and the team’s future.
“I’m going to continue to set goals, focus on the season and whatever happens, happens.”
That’s just a sample of a rare and fascinating raw interview Kobe gave in his second season, before he turned 20. Here, you get an idea of the mentality of a teenager who, while pinching himself for being in the NBA, remains confident in who he is and where he’s going (when he’s not stuck in L.A. traffic!). “I just feel like a 19-year-old person,” he said. “But I’m a man now.”
Kobe wearing adidas? When you see him in those shoes, at the Forum, and with a head full of hair, you know this is Early Kobe, a time when he was just touching his legacy and tapping into his talent, when he was full of joy and played without a care in the world. This is the stage of Kobe when the basketball world fell in love with his spirit and his athletic ability and his innocence. Therefore, behold the young and budding star as he delivers a highlight package that shows him in all of his early glory, complete with the No. 8 jersey.
Hollywood is known for producing unlikely yet successful combinations: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; Magic and Kareem. Well, another was in its formative stages in the late 1990s and early 2000s with Kobe and Shaq, a big man and small man, a kid and a grownup, put together for the sake of stretching the Lakers’ dynasty into another decade. These relationships are often complex, yet when they work, they deliver -- as Kobe and Shaq discuss in this revealing footage
Kobe 81. No other words are required to explain what happened one night at Staples Center when the Lakers played the Raptors and Kobe would not stop scoring. It was a night to remember, to savor, to admire. From 55 points to 60 to 70 to 77 and, “I stayed in the moment” Kobe said, and what a moment. Kobe reflects on that night and that game and the elements that made it all possible, and he does so with such calm, the same approach he had that night when he established the NBA’s second-highest scoring game in history.
The person most qualified to discuss Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant. Even better is when Kobe is sitting in a room and in a reflective mood. It is such a treat to hear Kobe on Kobe, taking a lap around his career through his eyes and getting his take on the most important moments and people and performances that helped shape who he was as a player and also as a person. You come away from this a little smarter and wiser about the all-time great and what made him the player he became.
“That’s what makes the mark of a star, how he makes his players better.” Those words were from Lakers coach Phil Jackson, issuing a challenge to Kobe to add a much-needed element to his game and his mindset. And so it all came together for Kobe during his MVP season, when he said “Ain’t going to the shootout with butter knives no more. I got guns now -- now we gon’ see what’s up.” That was a response not just to the Lakers gifting him Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, but also Kobe doing what he could to elevate his teammates’ confidence and performances. It made for a magical ride. This is Kobe at his all-around best. This is Kobe in MVP form.
Get into the mind of Kobe in this interview with Ahmad Rashad. Here, Kobe discusses the "Mamba mentality" that consumed him during games, where he settled for nothing less that victories. And also how he wanted to win championships without Shaq. You understand how Kobe embraced the role of leadership, how he learned to trust his teammates and the system, and how he did win without Shaq. “You pick this whole train up and take it where it needs to go. And if they’re not coming along, you drag them along,” he said. That sums it up perfectly.