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If there’s anything Kobe Bryant regrets about his 60-point game that closed out his basketball career, it’s that he didn’t score 80, the recently retired star of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers said Tuesday.
Bryant said his own children, too young to remember his glory days, were shocked at his stellar performance last month against the Utah Jazz. “Your dad used to be really, really good,” he told them.
Speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference, Bryant said he looked at video from that game last month and saw some missed opportunities. He spoke of one particular fade-away shot where he said, in his mind at the time, he was picturing himself as a kid on a bike throwing rocks at a trash can. “Inspiration can come from anywhere,” he said.
Bryant called himself a “realistic perfectionist,” explaining what that means with an anecdote: Michael Jordan told him, now that he’s retired, they can play golf together, but Bryant said, “Not with you!” Point being, he knows his limitations and doesn’t look for opportunities to “get killed.”
Bryant said one of his pet peeves is laziness. “I tell my kids, you can either be a lion or a gazelle. Nature needs both,” he said.
As for basketball, he said: “I like to motivate players to be better. I don’t want to have to motivate them to get in the gym in the first place.”
Bryant drew laughs several times while speaking to the standing-room-only audience of several hundred people in a Beverly Hills ballroom.
He spoke of the different ways he’d motivate players. Pau Gasol needed gentle persuasion and a hug now and then, while Shaquille O’Neal needed to be challenged, which included trash talk. He described his sometimes rocky relationship with O’Neal when they played together on the Lakers a decade ago as one of “brutal honesty,” while the press and others played it up as “tension.”
Bryant has had his share of negativity heaped on him, but he said it never bothered him because he “used it all” as inspiration to work harder and improve his game.
“Doubt is such a strange thing,” he said.
Asked by sportscaster Jim Gray to size up some of his opponents over the years, Bryant called Jordan the best player he ever faced but said Kevin Durant was the hardest player to cover.
He’s not missing basketball because he loves the work he’s doing at Kobe Inc., the media company he founded a few years ago. Bryant showed the Nike “the conductor” commercial, which originated at Kobe Inc., where he’s featured turning a chorus of boos on the basketball floor into an actual chorus (see the ad below).
Kobe Inc. also was responsible for the documentary Kobe Bryant’s Muse that aired last year on Showtime, and he hinted that books, movies and TV shows are likely in the company’s future.
“I love storytelling … Storytelling through sports, what would that look like?” he said.
“What sports books are you going to read to [your kids] that touches fantasy? There are no stories like that,” said Bryant. “The opportunities you have to entertain and to educate are endless.”
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