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If you collaborate with great people and each one is enhancing the other, that's when we create things that are timeless." It's disorienting to hear him talk about other worlds so soon after that game. Kobe didn't show up, so Shaw later texted him a picture of the sting ray and leopard sharks he'd caught. His entire career was built upon accepting nothing.For months he had everyone convinced that he was OK limping out of the limelight. Turns out he was living in his own universe the whole time. After he ruptured his Achilles, he looked Lakers trainer Gary Vitti in the eye and asked whether he could still play."What you saw there was the opening scene of the basketball version of the blood-spattered bride," Bryant says. Of course Kobe has moved into a world of his own making.
They film rivals talking at midcourt before games, reporters talking in the hallways afterward. It took over an hour for him to meet everyone after the Lakers' final game in Phoenix last month. They want to know how he became the Black Mamba, what sacrifices he made and the toll those take on a man. So I change tacks and ask whether it feels good to know they are proud. "When I get a phone call from Bill Russell and I talk to Jerry West and we're just kind of shooting the shit, that's awesome because that means that these guys, who were my muses growing up, respect the way that I've carried on their legacy," he says. That does not complete me as a man or make me feel fulfilled, because I have their approval for what I do." He used to be close to Lakers owner Dr. They'd meet for lunches at California Pizza Kitchen or this Italian restaurant in Marina Del Rey.
But come on, did you really think la Mamba Negra, the Black freaking Mamba was going to fade away? Of course T-shirts with that phrase were available to buy on his website within minutes of his final speech to the crowd at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant has been living as a legend for 20 years now. He'd allude to conversations he was having with creative types such as J. "I think Walt did this with animation, as well," he says. "He quickly realized that, although he could draw pretty well, there are other animators out there that are just much, much better. Thoughts of a future after basketball compete with the urge to sleep. Three straight seasons ended by major injuries -- a ruptured Achilles (April 2013), a broken kneecap (December 2013) and a torn rotator cuff (January 2015) -- seemed to have turned him into a wax statue of Kobe that tourists visit and take selfies with, not the Black Mamba.
He's been planning his basketball death for years now. He went and found those animators and gave them the vision and allowed them to do what they do best. There are just over six weeks left in the farewell tour -- Kobe is headed to Memphis for his last game against the Grizzlies. The Lakers get their ass kicked, then Kobe smiles and waves to the adoring crowd as he leaves the court for the final time. One summer about six or seven years ago, former teammate and assistant coach Brian Shaw invited Kobe to go fishing in Santa Barbara. Kobe wrote, "Because they got caught." That Kobe, the asshole who thought those fish who got caught deserved to die solely because they got caught would've needed a morphine drip and a social media gag order to get through a 17-win season. He traded everything -- his friends, his family, his identity, his body, ultimately his humanity -- in pursuit of basketball immortality.
A bunch of baseball players in town for spring training came to see him. He writes things like "Be Legendary" on the shoes he passes out and tells young players like Kyrie Irving to create conflict on their team so nobody ever gets comfortable. Before Buss passed away in 2013, he told Kobe he hoped he'd be a Laker for life. He wouldn't trade you." "I look at it from a business perspective," he says. If you're going to bet, you got to bet on the horse that you know is obsessive about what they do, day in and day out, and is going to be hell bent on trying to win a championship.
"Some people want to take it to the grave with them," Kobe says. The world is filled with a lot of Smeagols [who] can't let go of the damn ring." I ask whether the attention this year has been validating. I ask what it meant to him that Buss chose him over Shaquille O'Neal in 2004. If you're going to bet on a horse, you always bet on the one that eats, sleeps and breathes the craft." Just a few weeks earlier, Kobe and O'Neal were hugging each other at the All-Star Game in Toronto.He was a loner who struggled to belong to any community or to have friends. Once I discovered that, everything about the game changed. trademarked the phrase "Friends Hang Sometimes, Banners Hang Forever." He worked on that phrase for a long time.