Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has played 1,420 NBA games, including the playoffs, but hasn't taken a step back or slowed down one bit.
Bryant, who's averaging 39 minutes a night, is having one of the best seasons of his career. He leads the league in scoring with 29.9 points per game, he's shooting 47.8%, and now has been asked to be the Lakers best defender.
Bryant sat down with ESPN's Chris Palmer, where he talked about playing against Michael Jordan, playing guys 1-on-1 and his biggest pet peeve.
When was the last time you watched Michael Jordan tapes? Wow, it’s been a while. Probably not since 1999. I used to watch a bunch, but that was a long time ago. What was it like dropping 33 on him as a 19-year-old in your second year? I wasn’t scared or nervous back then when I played Jordan. He looked at me like he was going to f--- me up but I had to let him know that I wasn’t that guy. I let him know that I’m not like all those other guys he played against. That’s not what I was there for. I was there to compete and I did. Did you let him know that verbally? More so by the way I played and competed. Early on you got tired of the MJ comparisons, but a part of you had to be flattered, right? I appreciated them, but after a while it just got old. They eventually faded away because I was putting together my own identity. But I’ll never forget how much I learned from MJ. I got so much from him. I knew what he did, I knew his moves and I used them. But for me the comparisons didn’t work because our situations were totally different. I came straight out of high school and played with a dominant big in Shaquille. Man, I was so young when I got to the NBA. What was I, like, 17? I mean, 17! The more you think about it, my situation was completely different than MJ’s, so the comparisons were just, you know, I stopped paying attention to them. Ironically, toward the end of your career those comparisons are starting to return. I don’t mind that now. It’s different now that I’m at the end of my career and I can look back. Fans will always want to know who’s better and like to compare players, and I love that. That’s what I used to do. That’s why people are into basketball, because it’s fun to debate those kinds of things.
Who is your best friend in the NBA that’s not a former teammate? [Long pause.] There’s nobody I’m really hanging out with and going out with every night. But I’d probably say Carmelo Anthony. We’re pretty close. A lot of the guys from Team USA I get along with really well. I really respect those guys. Usually self-appointed nicknames don’t really stick, but Black Mamba has had real staying power. Well, actually I didn’t come up with it. I think I was playing ball in the park in New York and they just started calling me that, and it just stuck. Oh, I didn’t know that. Then I found out what a mamba can do with its quick-strike capability. There’s a really good scene in the movie "Kill Bill" that explains it. Who would you most like to play one-on-one, either active or retired? Jordan. No question. What would happen? I’m not sure, but he would win some and I would win some in a seven-game series. It would probably come down to the last few shots.
You versus LeBron? Who wins? Me. No question. As far as one-on-one, I’m the best to ever do it. Damn. That’s pretty confident. LeBron is a terrific all-around, five-on-five basketball player who’s an all-time great. But I’d get him. Who could get you? Kevin Durant is the guy that would give me the most trouble. With his length and ability to use the dribble, he’d be tough. I always wanted to see you play Tracy McGrady. I played T-Mac. I cooked him. Roasted him. Wasn’t even close. Ask him, he’ll tell you. When I was about 20, we were in Germany doing some promotional stuff for that other sneaker company and we played basketball every day. We were in the gym all the time. We played three games of one-on-one to 11. I won all three games. One game I won 11-2. After the third game he said he had back spasms and couldn’t play anymore. His back bothered him for most of his career. Well, now you know. What about Kyrie Irving? [Huge smile, laugh.] Kyrie’s my boy, but he knows he doesn’t have anything for me. He doesn’t want to see me. But it would be fun. I’ve beaten a lot of guys one-on-one, like Reggie Miller and Grant Hill. I used to play Caron Butler all the time in practice when he was with the Lakers. When I was a rookie I used to get Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones. They know. They’ll tell you. They used to come at me hard but I wasn’t having that. I love going one-on-one with someone. That’s what I do. I’ve never lost. It’s a whole different game, just to have them right in front of you and be able to do whatever you want.
What’s your biggest pet peeve? I hate dog s---. I won’t go near it. So pissed when I step in it. I’ve got four dogs and I just don’t do dog doo. I’m a diva when it comes to that. Back in the day when I was in Italy, I used to order shoes from Nike all the time. I had to have all the fresh joints. I ordered the Elephant Print Jordans that were amazing. I went to the park to play and stepped in a huge pile of dog s---. You wouldn’t believe how mad I was. I was breaking off sticks to try to get it out of the crevices. I smacked them together and scraped the soles on the curb but couldn’t get it all out. Ever since that day I just can’t stand dog crap. You made a glorious arrival to Twitter. Are there any NBA players you might want to follow? Probably not. I’m not interested in what you had for breakfast. Twitter is great to connect with fans and be transparent. I enjoy that aspect about it. But really, I’m still trying to figure it out.