In a terrific cover story for the latest issue of SI, Kobe Bryant opens up about everything that took place during the turbulent 2012-’13, and looks forward towards an uncertain future. Bryant considers this the “final chapter” of his storied NBA career, and says that despite being possibly slowed down by an Achilles tear, much like boxing great (and friend) Floyd Mayweather, Kobe thinks he’ll figure out a way to continue being dominant: “In an age when athletes aspire to be icons, yet share the burden of success with all their best pals, Bryant looms as perhaps the last alpha dog, half greyhound and half pit bull. No one handles him. No one censors him. He shows up alone. ‘What am I trying to be?’ he asks. ‘Am I trying to be a hip, cool guy? Am I trying to be a business mogul? Am I trying to be a basketball player?’ He doesn’t provide an answer. He doesn’t have to. It’s been obvious since he was 11 years old in Italy and a club from Bologna tried to buy his rights. The gym was the place he could go at 4 a.m., “to smell the scent” and pour the fuel. Bryant wonders whether his sanctuary is finally closing, and if so, how he will cope without it. He recognizes what many around him do not: The persona, lifelike as it may be, is only partly real. Beneath it is a three-dimensional figure, with the same vulnerabilities as anybody else, plus the will to overcome them. ‘I have self-doubt,’ Bryant says. ‘I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I’m like, ‘My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don’t have it. I just want to chill.’ We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it. You rise above it. … I don’t know how I’m going to come back from this injury. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll be horses—.’ He pauses, as if envisioning himself as an eighth man. ‘Then again, maybe I won’t, because no matter what, my belief is that I’m going to figure it out. Maybe not this year or even next year, but I’m going to stay with it until I figure it out.’ […] He adopted a title for the next phase of his career, which will begin when rehab ends and he sticks that gold Lakers jersey back in his teeth, whether on opening night or Christmas Day or sometime in between. ‘It’s The Last Chapter,’ Bryant says. ‘The book is going to close. I just haven’t determined how many pages are left … I’m reflective only in the sense that I learn to move forward,’ Bryant says. ‘I reflect with a purpose.’ […] ‘Maybe I won’t have as much explosion,’ Bryant says. ‘Maybe I’ll be slower. Maybe I’ll lose quickness. But I have other options. It’s like Floyd Mayweather in the ring. There’s a reason he’s still at the top after all these years. He’s the most fundamentally sound boxer of all time. He can fight myriad styles at myriad tempos. He can throw fast punches or off-speed punches, and he can throw them from odd angles.'”
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