“I was imagining to be one of the greatest players who’ve ever played. That was always my dream,” a reflective Kobe Bryant said.
“I can’t believe it happened that way.”
The Los Angeles Lakers legend was in Manila for the Mamba Mentality tour, his seventh time in the Philippines and his first since retiring from an illustrious 20-year career.
“There’s so much energy that surrounds the game, there’s so much passion that surrounds the game. So I enjoy it every time I come here.” Bryant said at the Mamba Mentality Tour press conference at the Shangri-La hotel in Taguig, Saturday.
The 37-year old five-time champion revealed that growing up, there was no other team he would rather play for: “I dreamed about playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, my favorite team.”
“Last year was a great opportunity for myself and the fans to say thank you to one another and we obviously appreciate one another.” Bryant said, referring to how his status as the NBA’s premier villain suddenly turned into hero last season.
Bryant also bared which arena he was most surprised with the most on his final year.
“Sacramento, probably. Because we had some of the most intense battles. They hated me. They went so far as poisoning my cheesecake. I was doubled over sick in the playoffs.” Bryant said with a laugh, referring to an incident during the intense Kings-Lakers rivalry of the early 2000’s where Bryant came down with a case food poisoning after ordering room service at the Sacramento Hyatt before Game 2 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals. Bryant scored 22 points in a loss to the Kings but went on to win the series and eventually, the NBA title.
“Getting that ovation in Sacramento, it was very very surprising.”
“Going city to city, it was great. I had the chance to embrace it and take it all in,” he said of his final year.
The 18-time All-Star also bared how unbelievable his career was: “I can’t imagine doing my last game at home. I can’t believe this is actually happening. I just had 20 years playing for my favorite organization in a beautiful
city. I just couldn’t– it’s amazing.”
And how his final game against the Utah Jazz where he scored 60 points felt better than a movie: “If that was a script for a film and that was the ending then of the film then you’d have to rewrite the film. It’s like:
‘No. There’s no way this happens.'”
“The people who sit there who watch the film they’ll be like: ‘Nahh, that’s fantasy land.’ You know? It’s surreal. I can’t believe it happened that way.” Bryant added.
Now retired, after a legendary career, Bryant bared where his focus lies on now: teaching and story telling.
“Ownership? Maybe– but in a passive sense. Coaching? No. If I’m a coach, I can only teach 15 players but through story telling, I can teach millions. I think that really will raise the level of the game more than I can do by coaching.”
“It’s emotionally different. I think there’s so much more value in teaching because there’s so much enjoyment that come from watching a player kinda have life, go off.”
He also shared that fans should expect more of his ‘Black Mamba’ line of products from Nike: “(I’ll) just work on the Mamba line and come up with fantastic products and continue to innovate.” Bryant said.