by Lang Whitaker

I grew up ears-deep in trading cards. I started with baseball cards (1984 Topps was my first box set) and then things snowballed from there. At one point I bought a typewriter at a garage sale, and I obsessively typed and retyped lists of which cards I had. (In retrospect, I guess I could have just LOOKED at the cards to know which ones I had.) Eventually I realized that things had gotten out of hand when my friend David and I made his Mom drive us drive us an hour outside Atlanta to a used card shop to look for weird rookie cards. So I took all my cards, boxed them up and put them in my parent’s attic, where they remain today.

With the advent of video games, trading cards have lost their relevance. In response, Panini, the world’s largest sports and entertainment collectable company and the exclusive trading card of the NBA, is today launching an interactive online game using trading cards, which they’re calling Adrenalyn. Check it out here.

While you still use trading cards, there’s also an online element that uses an authorization code on the back of each card allowing kids to upload the card into a virtual album, where they can then create their own decks of 10 and compete against the computer or their friends. There’s also a huge bus tour kicking off today, that’s going all over the US (check the schedule here.)

Also, the kid who is the leading scorer online at the end of the NBA season will win a chance to meet the game’s spokesperson and play against him one-on-one.

That spokesperson? Some guy named Kobe Bryant.

Last weekend while Kobe was filming a spot for Panini, I managed to get him on the phone for a few minutes…

LW: This company you’re doing the cards with, Panini, that’s an Italian company. Do you remember them from when you were a kid?

KB: Absolutely. I had a bunch of Panini cards. I was a big soccer buff as you know, man, and they did soccer cards, so I had a lot of those.

kobeadrenalynLW: Did they have basketball cards in Italy?

KB: Not in Italy. When I came back to the States, that’s when I really went nuts. I used to have a *bunch* of them, the basketball cards.

LW: Kids these days are so into video games, do you think this thing you’re doing with Panini will help get them back into collecting cards?

KB: That’s the hope, and we believe we have a strategy to be able to do that. We have to breathe new life and try to pump new energy into the industry, so kids nowadays can see the enjoyment or see the fun that you can get out of collecting cards.

LW: Do you collect anything now?

KB: I collect stuff from movies. Movie props, stuff like that. That’s the only kind of thing I collect right now.

LW: What kind of games do your kids play? They’re getting old enough now that they’re probably into some of that stuff, right?

KB: Yeah, they’re into, like, softball, soccer. My oldest one, she asked me to teach her how to play basketball the other day for the first time, and my mouth almost hit the floor. We play board games like Candyland, videogames like Princess Wii, stuff like that.

LW: We’re posting this next week after the Superbowl, but who’s your Superbowl prediction?

KB: I think the Colts will. I think Manning will get it done.

LW: You going to a Superbowl party?

KB: Nah man, we rest. It’ll be a day off for us, and that’ll be the first day off we’ve had in like two months.

LW: Since the East Coast trip?

KB: Yeah. So I’ll stay at home and watch the game on TV.

LW: When you’re on the road for that long, is it possible for you to keep up with like, TV shows you’re into, or movies that just came out, or whatever?

KB: it’s actually easier to do that on the road, because your schedule is pretty much set. At home if you have a lot of things to do, you have to do ‘em. On the road it’s easier to catch up on things.

LW: Do you watch “Lost”?

KB: No, I’m not a “Lost” guy at all.

LW: I’m not either, but I know it’s really popular.

KB: Most of my teammates are, they’re all really into “Lost.” I just haven’t started.

LW: Did you see Avatar?

KB: Not yet, it looks great, though.

LW: What have you heard about the iPad?

KB: I saw that on TV the other day, and that’s pretty phenomenal.

LW: I know Phil gave you guys the books the other day for your trip, and Phil said he doesn’t think you’ve ever read any of the books he’s given you.

KB: I definitely haven’t.

LW: Do you read books on the road?

KB: I’ll read a book. If it’s something I’m interested in, I’ll read it.

LW: And you’re not into Twitter.

KB: Not at all.

LW: Did you see the new SLAM cover yet?

KB: No, I haven’t.

LW: We posted it the other day on our site and people were leaving all sorts of comments on there, which made me wonder, Do you ever go on sites and secretly read up, just to see what people are saying about you?

KB: Not at all. What am I’m gonna sit there and do that for? I’ve got much better stuff to do.

LW: Today, the Lakers are 38-12. Did you think it was going to go this well, this fast, with Ron Ron coming in?

KB: The thing is, we actually think we should be playing better. We’re doing great, despite all the injuries that we’ve had the first half of the season. But we really think we should be playing better.

LW: How can you guys get better?

KB: I think defensively we can get a lot better. Get a little more consistency with our bench play, but that will shake itself out. But we believe that we have many areas to improve in.

LW: I’ve seen people throwing the Lakers around in trade talks. Do you think you guys will make a move? Are you good with what you guys have?

KB: I’m good with what we have. I mean, obviously the front office has to do their jobs, but I’m good with what we’ve got.

LW: You’ve been around long enough now, when do you know when your team is good enough to win a title?

KB: You never really know, because in the Playoffs, one wrong bounce can change a series completely. You never really know until you actually win a Championship.

LW: Do you think this year’s team can win a Championship?

KB: We’re playing very well, and we have a chance just like anybody else. Obviously, we’re the defending champions, and our stock holds a little bit more value. But at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding.