The final game of Kobe Bryant’s legendary 20-year career featured the Black Mamba posting 60 points against the Utah Jazz at the Staples Center. The 5-time NBA Champion joined The Jim Rome Show on Thursday for the first time since that game and shared his thoughts on what it was like.
“I was kind of pinching myself for the first couple of weeks if it actually happened,” Bryant laughed. “It was such a surreal moment to have that last game play out that way and to have my family there and to play in front of so many fans that have watched me play when coming into the league at 17 years old, so I was just kind of pinching myself and can’t believe that it’s over and can’t believe it finished the way it did.”
There are some people who believe Bryant is the last of a dying breed, a superstar hell-bent on winning, but the 38-year-old doesn’t necessarily agree with that take.
“I think there are guys that have that, but that only comes over time,” Bryant said. “When I was young and playing, that wasn’t the perception. The perception was that I was headstrong, obsessive about the game of basketball, but as time has gone on and people have been able to see how obsessive I’ve been about winning, then that’s kind of become, they’ve kind of come to know me as that, right. So there are certain young players out there, I’m sure, that have that mentality, but over time we will be able to see who is who.”
When asked if there’s a particular player that reminds him of himself, Bryant brought up a former foe in Oklahoma City.
“When I turn on the TV and I watch players play, the player that plays with the same kind of emotion and grit and competitive intensity is Russell [Westbrook],” Bryant said of the All-Star guard. “Russell is going hard. Doesn’t matter who he is playing against, doesn’t matter what the odds are, he’s going, that’s a guy, he is going 110 percent every single time.”
The NBA’s biggest off-season news broke last month when Westbrook’s former teammate, Kevin Durant, decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors. Bryant talked about his reaction to Durant’s decision to join a team that had not only won the Western Conference, but an NBA record 73 regular season games in the process.
“I was happy for him. This is something that he wants to do man, he’s happy with his decision,” Bryant said. “So as a competitor you have to look at that and say ok, how can I figure out, I have to figure out to take apart that team, and so now the challenge becomes how to find cracks within their system within their personnel, how can I take them down.”
Bryant said he doesn’t think any less of Durant for joining such an established team as Golden State and added that for him, it would light his competitive fire.
“As a competitor, I would have thought less about myself if I looked at that move and thought that was unfair,” Bryant laughed. “If you are a real competitor, you look at that and say ok lace them up, let’s go. I don’t care how many players you have over there, we are still going to take you down.”
As for his Lakers, Bryant had good things to say about their new coach, his former teammate Luke Walton, saying he reminds him of Phil Jackson.
“He has a great demeanor. He’s always been poised, always even-keeled, and he communicated very clearly,” Bryant said. “I could speak strategically to Luke about the game, and he could see things and sequences of options versus one or two actions. He could see the grand scheme of the game, and so all those things kind of led me to be believe he’d be a great coach, always felt that was really his true calling when it came to the game.”