My Kobe Bryant articles

 

MAIN LINE SPORTS              Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009

Main Line Times                              www.mainlinemedianews.com

 

Kobe reflects on Garden record, Olympics, wheelchair basketball

By David Block

 

(Editor’s note — Main Line Media News sportswriter David Block interviewed Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant five days after the Lower Merion graduate broke the Madison Square Garden single-game scoring record, tallying 61 points in a win against the New York Knicks.)

 

ARDMORE — When Kobe Bryant broke the Madison Square Garden scoring record earlier this month, he was trying to go one-up on Spike Lee.

 

In an exclusive interview with Main Line Media News earlier this month, Bryant said, “Spike Lee was there at the game and I had to see him afterwards because we’re working on a project together. I wanted to make sure that I had the bragging rights and not him. Him being there was more motivation [to break the record].”

 

Garden party

 

Bryant scored 61 points in a win against the New York Knicks Feb. 2 at Madison Square Garden, surpassing Bernard King’s Madison Square Garden record of 60, set Dec. 25, 1984 while playing for the New York Knicks.

 

Madison Square Garden was also the site (Dec. 23, 2007) where Bryant went down in the record books as being the third NBA player to score his 2 0,000th point before turning 30. The other two were Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan.

 

Bryant said that the 61-point experience was incredibly special because he did it at Madison Square Garden: “There’s so much history in Madison Square Garden, and for me to accomplish a few historical things in that building itself makes it even more special. It’s the last one left in terms of historic venues in terms of historic venues in which NBA games are played.

 

There was the Forum; the Boston Garden, but they’re gone. Madison Square Garden is the last of the great arenas that’s left.”

 

Bryant also said that winning the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games at Beijing was more meaningful than winning his three NBA Championships (2000, 2001 and 2002).

 

Olympic feat

 

“In the Olympics,” said Bryant, “you’re playing for the United States of America. You’re not playing for a league or a state. The significance of competing in the Olympics cannot be overstated. The joy of playing in the Olympics was to see other athletes do what they do best. That was incredible in itself, to see Michael Phelps swim, and to see the best runners and volleyball players.”

 

Bryant, who turned 30 Aug. 23 during the Summer Games, was thrilled that his wife Vanessa and his two daughters, Natalia Diamante (age 6) and Gianna Maria-Onore (2), were in the stands waving American flags.

 

Two years ago, some wheelchair basketball players invited Bryant to scrimmage with them. After sitting down in a wheelchair and after the game began, Bryant had a rude awakening.

 

I wasn’t very good at all,” Bryant said. “I couldn’t keep up with them. I got a greater appreciation for the athleticism of what the do. You have to be incredibly talented and strong to be able to do that.”

 

Bryant still keeps in touch with the Lower Merion boys’ basketball teams, and always provides them with encouragement.

 

Asked why he still cares about the LM team, Bryant replied, Because it’s home…I wanted to come back to the Main Line last summer but couldn’t. I hope to come back this summer. I miss everything about the Main Line — my old stomping grounds, walking the streets, going to different restaurants, hanging out and playing ball. Seeing those places again brings back so many memories.

 

Asked to name his favorite Main Line restaurants and hangouts, Bryant laughed and refused to disclose them.

 

“I want to keep them my spots,” Bryant said.

 

For a complete transcript of Main Line Media News’ exclusive interview with Kobe Bryant, visit our Web site, www mainlinemedianews.com.

 

 

David Block’s Published Interview with Kobe Bryant

 

Posted on the Main Line Times Web-site

Posted on Wed, Feb 18, 2009   

Kobe talks about 61-point Garden performance and missing the Main Line 

 

Kobe Bryant was named the co-MVP of last weekend’s NBA All-Star game. Main Line Media News contributor David Block caught up with Kobe Bryant earlier this month, just five days after Bryant set a Madison Square Garden record of 61 points in a victory against the New York Knicks, breaking the old mark of 60 set by Bernard King, while also breaking Michael Jordan’s opponent’s record of 55 points.

 

 

Block: Congratulations on setting that record at Madison Square Garden. How would you compare that to the game where you scored 81 points? (Bryant scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors Jan. 22, 2006.)

 

 

 

KB: The similarities in those games was that I was in a really, really good rhythm. I continued to stay in the rhythm for the duration of the game. It’s rare, it doesn’t really happen too often. But for that game, everything seemed to flow well for me.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Did Spike Lee’s presence at Madison Square Garden that game make you play better?

 

 

 

KB: He (Lee) and I were working on a project. After the game, we were working on a movie that we’re doing together. Having him there, knowing that I had to see him afterwards, I wanted to make sure that I had the bragging rights and not him.

 

 

 

BLOCK: That gave you additional momentum, Kobe ?

 

 

 

KB: Yes, it was more motivation.

 

 

BLOCK: It was in Madison Square Garden where you scored your 20,000th point (on Dec. 23, 2007, which made Bryant the third NBA player – Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan were the others – to score 20,000 points before turning 30). How would you compare Madison Square Garden to other arenas? It seems as though Madison Square Garden has been good to you.

 

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KB: There’s no comparison.

 

 

BLOCK: No comparison, in what way?

 

 

 

KB: Madison Square Garden is such a special arena because it’s the last one left in terms of the historic venues in which NBA games are played. There was the Forum, there was the Boston Garden obviously, but they’re gone. We don’t play in those arenas no more, so Madison Square Garden is the last of the great arenas that’s left.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Does it feel extra special that you scored your 20,000th point being the third player under 30 to do it?

 

 

 

KB: It feels extremely special. It’s added to that because there’s so much history in Madison Square Garden and for me to accomplish a few things that are historical in that building itself makes it even more special.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Is there anything else that happened that was great for you at Madison Square Garden? You have such a rich history there.

 

 

 

KB: My first All Star Game (1998) was played at Madison Square Garden. It was pretty cool.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Now onto Beijing: How would you sum up your Beijing experience?

 

 

 

KB: Fun. I had so much fun playing with all the guys, competing in the Olympics, meeting all the athletes, it was so much fun.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Kobe, my vision is very limited, but I was able to see your face light up when you guys won the gold.

 

 

 

KB: It was such a great feeling.

 

 

 

BLOCK: How would you compare playing on the Olympic team to that of the Lakers?

 

 

 

KB: On the Olympic team, you’re playing for your country. It’s so special because you’re not playing for a state or a particular brand. You’re playing for the United States of America. The significance in that cannot be overstated.

 

 

 

BLOCK: The fact that, here in the NBA, all these cities have different fans, and because there was none of that at Beijing , did you get the feeling that people weren’t looking at you negatively like they might have in the U.S.?

 

 

KB: The game’s changed so much. There’s more support now for NBA basketball players now than maybe there was in 2000 in Sydney. There’s more support. They’re more supportive of us, they follow our progress as athletes and they support us more.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Did you learn anything valuable about yourself as a person playing at Beijing?

 

 

 

KB: The special thing about playing in the Olympics was the joy of seeing other athletes do what they do best. That to me was incredible within itself, to see Michael Phelps swim, to see so many other athletes who were competing and doing what they do. To have an opportunity to go and watch them perform and to see the joy that they got from that was special.

 

 

 

BLOCK: And that’s something that you don’t get to see while you’re playing in the NBA?

 

 

 

KB: You normally don’t see that anywhere. These are the best in the world, the best swimmers, runners, volleyball players. These are the best of the best. It’s such a special treat to be able to see that.

 

 

 

BLOCK How did it feel that your family (wife Vanessa and daughters Natalia Diamante and Gianna Maria-Onorel) was there, and that you turned 30 there (Aug. 23, 2008) right before you won the gold?

 

 

KB: That made it 10 times more special. To have my family in the crowd, waving the flag of the United States of America , singing the national anthem, having them there really took it over the top.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Do they normally get to see you play during the year in the stands?

 

 

 

KB: Oh, yeah.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Compare your three NBA championship titles to winning your Olympic gold medal.

 

 

 

KB: Winning an Olympic gold medal, to me, was even more special.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Why is that more special than your NBA titles (1999-2000, 2000-2001 and 2001-2002)?

 

 

 

KB: Because you’re playing for your country.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Did winning the gold give you additional momentum to play even better this year?

 

 

 

KB: No, I don’t think so. I was focused, ready to come back. It was a great experience for that moment in time. I don’t think it was something that got carried over into the season.

 

 

 

BLOCK: When was the last time that you came back to the Main Line, and when do you plan on coming back again?

 

 

 

KB: I planned on coming back last summer, but it just turned into such a busy summer, I didn’t have time to do it. I’ll definitely be back this summer.

 

 

 

BLOCK: What do you miss most about the Main Line?

 

 

 

KB: I miss everything. My old stomping grounds, I just remember walking the streets, going into different restaurants and different spots [where] I used to hang out, play ball, and awesome stuff. Just seeing those places again, just brings back so many memories.

 

 

 

BLOCK: What restaurants do you miss particularly?

 

 

 

KB: I won’t name them. They’re still my spots. You know, I want to keep them my spots.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Have you spoken to the Lower Merion basketball team this year?

 

 

 

KB: I have, actually.

 

 

 

BLOCK: And what did you tell them?

 

 

KB: The same thing that I always tell them. Continue to work hard and do the best that you can do.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Because your time is limited, was there anything else that you didn’t tell them that you would like to say?

 

 

 

KB: I try to make a great deal of time, when I visit the school or speak to the team. I carve out a pretty good amount of time.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Why is the Lower Merion basketball team still special to you? You’re an Olympic gold medalist, a three-time NBA champion Laker, so why would Lower Merion still be special?

 

 

 

KB: It’s home.

 

 

 

BLOCK: What happens at these basketball clinics that you run?

 

 

KB: We have a basketball camp. We teach kids different systems on how to play the game of basketball. The kids would try to learn the offense, the principles of offense, so forth and so on. It’s just a week or two weeks worth of learning the game of basketball.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Have you ever seen people in wheelchairs play basketball?

 

 

 

KB: I have.

 

 

 

BLOCK: What was your impression?

 

 

 

KB: It was pretty unbelievable. Actually, they invited me to play with them. So I tried, and I wasn’t very good at all.

 

 

BLOCK: When was this?

 

 

KB: I think it was two years ago.

 

 

 

BLOCK: So they sat you down in the wheelchair and had you play?

 

 

 

KB: Yeah. (Laughs) I tried to play, but I couldn’t keep up.

 

 

 

BLOCK: What did you learn from playing in a wheelchair?

 

 

 

KB: You get such a greater sense of appreciation for their athleticism; what it is that they do. You have to be incredibly talented and strong to be able to do that.

 

 

BLOCK: Please verify, Natalia Diamante, is six and Gianna Maria Onore is two?

 

 

KB: Yes.

 

 

 

BLOCK: How is Natalia Diamante’s bike riding coming along? (Note: When Block interviewed Bryant two years ago, Kobe said he was teaching her to pop a wheelie.)

 

 

 

KB: It’s great.

 

 

 

BLOCK: What other sports does she do?

 

 

 

KB: Soccer, softball and all that kind of stuff.

 

 

 

BLOCK: What’s it like for her to have a daddy whose a big famous basketball player?

 

 

 

KB: She doesn’t even think about it like that.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Doesn’t the NBA take a lot of time away from seeing your kids?

 

 

 

KB: It does, but I always call and I also put a lot of time into being with my family.

 

 

 

BLOCK: How many more years do you think you’ll play in the NBA?

 

 

 

KB: I don’t know. It’s tough to call. I just got to get lucky and stay healthy.

 

 

 

BLOCK: You turned 30 last year. Is that the age to peak in basketball?

 

 

 

KB: It is. That’s the age where you get it really going.

 

 

 

BLOCK: What do you plan to do when you retire?

 

 

 

KB: I don’t know. I have a couple options, but I’m not exactly sure which one I want to do.

 

 

 

BLOCK: Anything else I should ask you, or that you’d like to talk about?

 

 

KB: No. You did a great job.

 

 

 

Main Line Times – Sports Section

Thursday, February 15, 2007

 

Kobe still attached to Lower Merion

By David Block

 

ARDMORE – When Kobe Bryant played his first NBA game a decade ago (Jan. 28, 1997), scoring 13 points and dishing out five assists, there were still people who thought it was a mistake for him to go straight from Lower Merion High School to the pros.

 

However, Bryant who was 18, knew that they would shut up in the long run, and he was right.

 

Last Monday, in an exclusive interview with the Main Line Times, Bryant said his proudest basketball accomplishment has been winning three NBA championships.

 

“That was most memorable – it’s being the best team in the world at that time,” said Bryant. “We rallied together and played off of one another. To be able to achieve such a lofty goal, winning three championships, was I extremely special for me.”

 

Another was receiving the 2002 NBA All-Star Game MVP award.

 

“It felt good to be part of that tradition,” said Bryant.

 

Bryant is equally proud of his Lower Merion accomplishments, such as being part of the Aces’ 1996 squad that won the PIAA Class AAAA state championship.

 

Returns to LM

 

Bryant tries to return to Lower Merion every summer. “I miss the community,” said Bryant. “I miss my teachers and my friends. I really don’t have a chance to see them too often, so every time we [the Lakers] come to Philadelphia to play the 76ers, I always look in the crowd to see if I see some of my old friends.”

 

He likes returning to Lower Merion because the people he knew here don’t treat him any differently.

 

“That’s what I love about coming home,” said Bryant. “I’m still Kobe, the same Kobe that went to Bala Cynwyd, then Lower Merion. There’s no difference at all.

 

“A lot of kids after high school go off to college, but for me it was high school then straight to work. High school for me was my college.”

 

Local clinic

 

When Kobe returned to Lower Merion High School last July for the Kobe Clinic, sponsored by Nike, his intention was to give the next generation of basketball players some of the knowledge that he gained throughout his career.

 

“I set up stations, where there were a myriad of coaches – I walked around from station to station, and I gave the kids tips and advice,” said Bryant, who ran a similar clinic in Los Angeles last summer.

 

Bryant hopes to run another clinic next summer at Lower Merion, but it depends on his schedule, which will be hectic because he will try out for the 2008 U.S. Olympic basketball team in Las Vegas.

 

That will take up a chunk of the summer as well as training camp for the [Lakers],” said Bryant.

 

Even though his schedule is always full, he tries to keep up with Lower Merion boys’ basketball head coach Gregg Downer, especially during the Aces’ season.

 

“He keeps me updated on how the season’s progressing,” said Bryant.

 

Last year, before the Aces won the final game to capture the PIAA Class AAAA state title, Bryant spoke to the team.

 

“I gave them words of encouragement,” said Bryant. “I still feel like I’m part of the Lower Merion tradition. I have that sense of pride of going to Lower Merion.”

 

When not on the basketball court, Bryant spends time with his wife, Vanessa and his two daughters, Natalia Diamante, age 4, and nine-month old Gianna Maria-Onore.

 

“Natalia just learned how to ride a bike, so I’m teaching her how to pop a wheelie,” said Bryant. “She also plays soccer and basketball. She’s a good dribbler.”

 

 

Main Line Times         Thursday 31 January 2002

 

Lower Merion retires Kobe Bryant’s No. 33

 

By: Bruce Adams and David Block

 

Kobe Bryant, who went directly from Lower Merion High School to NBA stardom, had his LM jersey number 33 retired Saturday night at a special ceremony held at the school.

 

Ardmore – Los Angeles Laker star Kobe Bryant, who went directly from Lower Merion High School to the NBA in 1996, was honored by the Aces at a special ceremony Saturday night. In front of a nostalgia-filled Lower Merion gymnasium holding 1,500 attendees, the Aces retired Bryant’s number, 33. Before Bryant entered the filled-to-capacity Lower Merion gym, an unannounced guest – the Lakers’ Shaquille O’Neal – walked into the gym and was greeted by an explosion of cheers. O’Neal, followed by Laker teammates Rick Fox, Mark Madsen, Devean George, Samaki Walker and Brian Walker, settled into third-row seats assembled on the gymnasium floor.

 

About 100 athletes from the Lower Merion School District led the procession introducing Bryant, with 9-year-old Rachel Newell and 11-year-old Alec Weiss dribbling basketballs at the head of the procession. LM students Monica Sciaky and Casey Alexander sang the National Anthem.

 

Many members of the 1996 Lower Merion PIAA Class AAAA state championship boys’ basketball team were present Saturday night. When center Brendan Pettit was introduced by L.M. school superintendent David Magill, O’Neal stood up, and Magill pointed to him and jokingly said, “Mr. O’Neal, I know your superintendent,” and the crowd roared.

 

Kobe said, “It’s always good to come home. Usually, I visit high school whenever we [the Lakers] play the Sixers. I walk by the gym, see if everything smells the same. In the hallway, before the start of [Lower

Merion] games, that’s when we used to pump each other up in the huddle, I used to take in the scent [in the hall] and it would always get me going.

“I had a good time here. It was a very enjoyable time for me. Many of you went on to college, went on to a university, I didn’t, so Lower Merion is the closest thing to (an alma mater) for me.  Lower Merion will always be a part of me, will always be in my heart.

 

“When I was (at Lower Merion), Ridley used to be the (Central League) champion. Ridley used to win every year. Then we finally kicked their butt, and now we’re on a nice little roll (five of the last six Central League titles), and I’m happy to see that.

 

“My fondest [high school basketball] memory was playing in the Palestra against Chester, a team nobody thought we could beat. We wound up winning the game [on the way to the state title]. We had a slogan my senior year: ‘Refuse to lose.’”

 

Lower Merion coach Gregg Downer, who has coached the Aces for a dozen years, started the ball rolling on a Bryant retirement ceremony last October.  Downer talked to L.M. schools superintendent David Magill about it, who thought it was a good idea, and in turn they spoke to L.M. athletic director Tom McGovern and L.M. principal Jack Maher. Originally, the ceremony was planned for either Jan. 26 or the NBA all-star weekend in Philadelphia Feb. 8-10. Downer’s apartment – a short distance from Lower Merion High School – is filled with mementos and pictures from

Bryant’s years with the Aces. During Kobe’s freshman year (Downer’s third), the Aces were 6-18. But in the next three seasons they went 77-14, including 31-3 in 1996, the season the Aces won the PIAA Class AAAA state championship.

 

“Kobe was the best high school player I have ever seen,” Downer told the audience Saturday. “He’s the hardest-working, most dedicated athlete I have ever been associated with – someone who never took a single short cut. He’s a gentleman, a class act, a person who always made time for children. He accommodated the many demands placed on him with dignity, grace and kindness.

 

“Ten years ago, Kobe was a six-foot, skinny eighth-grader at Bala Cynwyd Middle School, constantly dribbling through the streets of Wynnewood. Kobe and his ball were absolutely inseparable. He would dribble through the streets, and imitate his childhood idol, Magic Johnson.

 

“When I met Kobe at that time I was astounded by his charm, his savvy and his single-minded sense of direction. His work ethic at Lower Merion was legendary – 6 a.m. workouts; weight-training sessions; one-on-one workouts with Sixers’ players; and at the age of 15, his first one-on-one victory against his father, ‘Jellybean’ Joe Bryant; four years of never losing one sprint in practice; an absolute intolerance of mediocrity.

 

“After practice, I’d rebound for him and he would have to make 10 shots in a row from various places on the court. It didn’t matter if it took a half hour, an hour or longer, Kobe wasn’t leaving until the task was done. He would come to school at 6 a.m. to practice, even if it was a snow day. I feel honored to have a small fingerprint on Kobe’s development.”

 

Jermaine Griffin, who was co-captain of the 1996 L.M. squad, added to the lighthearted tone of the evening when he said, “I’m glad I had the privilege of playing with Kobe. You all know he’s a great dribbler, great

shooter, he can grab rebounds, but the thing I like most about him were his passing abilities. Three guys would commit to him, I’d stay on the block, he’d dribble through two people, and I’d wave my hands and say, ‘Kobe, I’m open,’ and he’d make his shot.

“The next time he came down, there were four people on him, he went through two of them, went over another, and I’d stay on the block and say, ‘Kobe, I’m open,’ and he would jump over and dunk on the [fourth] kid.”

 

Griffin added, “There’s things that you might not see (written) about Kobe that I’ve seen in practice, and that a lot of his teammates now might see in practice – if I could sum it up in one word, it would be determination.

He had a relentless attitude. He just felt like there was nothing he couldn’t do.

 

“I remember when we were sophomores at his house watching the Chicago Bulls on TV, and Kobe would say, ‘If Michael Jordan was on me I’d do this and I’d do that.’ Four years later, what he said he would do, he did.”

 

Former teammates from the 1995-96 championship squad in attendance were Griffin; Phil Mellet, now a senior at Penn State; Robbie Schwartz, a University of Pittsburgh graduate; Pettit, a senior at Wesleyan University; Emory Dabney, currently at University of Pittsburgh; and Cary Walker, currently serving in the U. S. Army. Omar Hatcher, currently playing Division I basketball, was a member of the 1995-96 squad who was not able to attend. Kobe’s parents, Joe and Pam, were at the ceremony and maintain a residence in Lower Merion. Kobe’s wife Vanessa also was at the celebration.

 

L.M. athletic director Tom McGovern said, “Kobe was a good school citizen and a good scholar. In a sense, this [night] is as much a tribute to his parents Pam and Joe as it is to Kobe.” McGovern said, “In the spring of ’92, coach Downer came to me and said, ‘At the Bala Cynwyd Middle School is the best basketball player I’ve ever seen and I think he might even turn pro.’ I looked at Downer and wondered where he was coming from, could he be serious?

 

“The school was 100 years old and at the time (in ’92) only won four state championships. So to pick out an eighth-grader who was going to be that good, I wondered was he a nephew or a son I didn’t know Gregg had? It turned out that that kid was Kobe Bryant.

“Back in ’92 we didn’t think of Kobe Bryant, as Kobe Bryant, we thought of Kobe Bryant as Jellybean Joe Bryant’s son. Now, 10 years later we look at Joe and say, ‘That’s Kobe Bryant’s dad.’” McGovern recalled that people came as far away as New England and North Carolina to watch Kobe play: “The demand to see Kobe play was so great that ticket lines were incredibly long. We had to move the ticket sales out of the athletic office because the office was in an academic area and the long lines were disrupting hallway traffic. “By his senior year it wasn’t unusual to have to turn a few hundred people away at the door, causing traffic problems on Montgomery Ave and giving the Lower Merion police headaches.”

 

Magill said, “We even had a Kobe mailbox [at Lower Merion High School] to handle fan mail.”

 

Jeanne Mastriano, one of Kobe’s English teachers at Lower Merion, said, “In his senior year, Kobe’s speaking arts project was to develop an original story, and then to deliver that story to a group of four-year-olds. Kobe did a story about a boy who had dirty laundry that piled up until it turned alive and became a monster.

 

“The kids he was telling the story to came up to his knees, and the kids were backing off. Seeing their reaction, he immediately dropped to the floor, looked at them, reached out his arms, and said, ‘Come here.’

 

“And the kids mobbed him, and they weren’t even basketball fans. They loved Kobe. Why? Because he was enjoying himself, he loved what he was doing. As a teacher, I find that quiet joy, that playfulness, that delight [in a student] is a rare thing. He loved basketball as a kid in Italy, dribbling himself to sleep. It was all he wrote about [in class] as a sophomore.”

 

Jill Govberg, president of the L.M. board of school directors presented Bryant with a watch donated by Govberg Jewelers of Bala Cynwyd and Breitling USA. The watch was inscribed, “To Kobe, # 33, Always an Ace, L.M.H.S.”

 

Bryant also was presented with a Lower Merion shirt and hat, and a peace-and-unity pin.

 

At the end of the ceremony, a brief question-and-answer period followed.

L.M. basketball star Sarah Lowe asked Kobe, “What did you take from Lower Merion in order to excel in life and basketball?”

 

Kobe responded, “A work ethic. Coach Downer always kept me after practice, and we always worked on our game together {Both] he and my parents instilled [good] values in me, to work hard toward your dream – I think you know a little bit about that, you’ve been kicking butt here – I’ve heard about you, I’ve heard you’ve got a mad game.”

 

Later Kobe was asked how he handled Sixer fan hostility during last year’s NBA finals, and he responded, “You just concentrate on the fact that it’s just like any other road game. Even though you’re coming home and playing in Philadelphia you just focus on the fact that those boos are like playing in any arena.

 

“I didn’t avoid the hostility [during last year's NBA finals in Philadelphia]. I just knew it was there and let them did all the booing, hooting and hollering that they wanted. It didn’t even bother me. I was excited to be home, but I didn’t make too much of a big deal about that because I had a job to do and that was to win the NBA championship.”

 

Kobe also gave some advice for high school basketball players trying to follow in his footsteps of going from high school straight to the NBA: “You’ve got to follow your heart. It doesn’t matter if you’re ready or not, but it’s a matter of, are you willing to do what it takes? If you come into the NBA and you’re ready, great. You still have a lot of work to do. But if you come into the NBA and you’re not ready, you’ve got twice as much work to do.

“For me, it came easy because I was willing to accept the fact that I might not do so well [at the beginning] so I did what I needed to do to succeed.”

 

©Main Line Times 2002

 

 

Kobe reflects on his Lower Merion days

By: David Block, Sportswriter            August 17, 2000

 

“There’s a lot of things I miss about the (Lower Merion) area…(On the Main Line) I could ride around peacefully, go out to eat peacefully.” -

Kobe Bryant

 

LOS ANGELES, CA – Former Lower Merion High School basketball star Kobe Bryant, who was a key figure in the Los Angeles Lakers’ recent NBA championship, said last week he often gets nostalgic for the Main Line.

 

“There’s a lot of things I miss about the area,” said Bryant. “I miss the high school – a lot of my high school buddies went to college. We still have a lot of memories. I keep up with them…(On the Main Line) I could ride around peacefully, go out to eat peacefully…I still go back to the high school sometimes.”

 

Yet, it has been two summers since Bryant returned to the Main Line. When asked if he could enjoy the same privacy in Los Angeles, he gave an emphatic “no.”

 

“Out here, it’s crazy,” he said. “You can’t go anywhere, you take it in stride. It’s part of the territory…Nothing you can do.”

 

When Lower Merion basketball coach Gregg Downer visited Bryant during the NBA finals, he saw that his former superstar had the Lower Merion basketball state championship medal hanging on the foot of his bed.

 

Although Bryant had come so far as a basketball player, he explained that the Lower Merion medal meant so much to him.

 

“It was an important year of my life,” said Bryant. “People said, ‘you’re not going to be able to win.’ The odds were against us. It was like us against the world. We were able to do it. We conquered a huge challenge

that year.”

 

Downer explained that the first sparks were set in Bryant’s junior year when the Aces were eliminated in the playoffs. Afterwards, Bryant said to his team that he was going to miss the seniors next year, but there was “no way” Lower Merion would lose next season.

 

Bryant, who began playing basketball at age three, grew up with the game – his father is former NBA star Joe Bryant. But it wasn’t his father who developed Kobe’s passion for the game – that came from within the younger Bryant.

 

“He (my father) just gave me the option to play all kinds of sports, but I enjoyed basketball the most,” said Kobe.

 

The younger Bryant often played one on one basketball as a youngster, which he said fueled his competitive juices.

 

“It was ‘Mano a Mano.’ That definitely enhanced my competitive drive,” said Bryant.

 

By age 13, Kobe knew that he could one day play in the NBA. He experience some turning points along the way. He was finally able to beat his two older sisters, Sharia and Shaya, whom he regarded as excellent

Basketball players, and he could also beat his father. However, Bryant attributed his conviction to how he felt inside.

 

“It was more the attitude…It just felt like I was the best player, it felt like I had the most moves,” said Bryant.

 

In the summer of 1995, a couple of months before Bryant’s senior year at Lower Merion, he was given the opportunity to work out with the 76ers. The daughter of 76ers coach John Lucas was going to Lower Merion and she told her father about Kobe.

 

“He (Lucas) knew my father so he invited me to come down and play with (the 76ers),” said Kobe. “I really didn’t think about who I was playing against. I knew they were NBA players but (to me) it was just a chance

to prove to them that I was a good basketball player.”

 

In that session, the 76ers coaching staff taught Bryant some skills which he still uses today.

 

Comparing the 76ers workouts to those of Lower Merion, Kobe said the latter were tougher:  “With the 76ers, it was just five on five scrimmages, but

At Lower Merion, we ran those suicide drills.”

 

When Bryant decided to go to the NBA and skip college, it became a big topic of discussion in the Delaware Valley. The fact that so many people were discussing Bryant’s decision had little if any effect on him.

 

“I didn’t really care (about it),” said Bryant. “The doubters bothered me a little bit, but I figured in the long run, I’d prove them wrong anyway…They’d shut up in the long run.”

 

Downer said, “A lot of these talk shows were saying that Kobe made a bad decision (in) going to the NBA and that he wasn’t going to make it, but none of those naysayers saw how excellent Kobe was. I worked with Kobe every day. He’d come in two hours before school started, even on snow days when the school would open late, just to practice. One of my assistant coaches got in the face of the WIP (Radio) talk show hosts who was criticizing Kobe and asked, ‘How many times did you actually see Kobe play?’ and the answer was ‘just once.’ These doubters didn’t know what they

were talking about.”

 

Among Bryant’s high school accomplishments was breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s 40 year old southeastern Pennsylvania high school scoring record of 2,359 points, with 2,883.

 

A week before Bryant’s debut NBA season of 1996-97, he broke his hand and had to miss a few weeks of action. In his first NBA game (Jan. 28, 1997) he scored 13 points and five assists.

 

Bryant was Slam Dunk champion and rookie all-star MVP in 1997, then became the youngest player to start an all-star game in 1998 when he was selected as a member of the Western Conference squad. Other  honors Bryant has received include being named the 1999-2000 NBA All-Interview second team and being selected to the 1999/2000 NBA All-Defensive first team.

 

When Phil Jackson took over as the Lakers’ coach this past season, basketball fans noticed the rapport between Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.

 

“Everyone knew (O’Neal) and I could work well together,” said Bryant. “It was just a matter of time. People need to realize that Shaq and I never really played together before. My first year, we didn’t play that much. The second year, I was still coming off the bench. The third year was the half season (due to the NBA strike), so this season was the first time we

(really) played together. Phil Jackson brought our playing to another level. He was a sharp coach.”

 

In game two of the NBA finals against the Indiana Pacers, Bryant sprained his ankle with 3:26 left in the first quarter. He missed the remainder of the game.

 

Even though it was difficult for him to walk, Bryant said that he was determined to play anyway, even if his ankle remained sprained.

 

In game four of the NBA finals, O’Neal fouled out and Bryant greatly contributed to the Lakers’ overtime win against Indiana, 120-118, netting 28 points.

 

After the game, O’Neal referred to Bryant as ‘the little big brother’ because although Bryant is only 6-feet-7, he scored some big baskets.

 

In game six of the finals, the Lakers clinched the championship with a 116-111 win. One memorable Bryant play was when Kobe made a great pass to

O’Neal, who scored with two defenders draped all over him.

 

Winning an NBA championship might satisfy some players, but Bryant wants more.

 

The last time Kobe was on the Main Line was two summers ago. “It was great being back,” said Bryant. “I got to ride around peacefully, I went back to the high school, and I could go out and eat peacefully. Out here (in Los Angeles), you can’t go anywhere. It’s crazy. You take it (in) stride. It comes with the territory.”

 

Bryant is involved with the record label, “Heads High Entertainment,” which was launched a few months ago.

 

“There’s a lot of young talent out there that needs to be discovered, that needs to be heard,” said Bryant. “It was an opportunity for me to help them so they can do something well for themselves.”

 

Bryant said he likes being a role model, but emphasizes that role models are not perfect: “The idea of a role model is if you do make a mistake people can look at you as an example and not make the same mistake.”

 

Copyright: Main Line Times, August 2000

 

***********

 

Main Line Times interview ~ Kobe Bryant

By: David Block, Sportswriter           August 17, 2000

 

Former Ace says he still misses Lower Merion, Main Line

 

(Editor’s note: The following is a verbatim account of Main Line Times sportswriter David Block’s interview with former Lower Merion basketball star Kobe Bryant last week.)

 

Main Line Times: How old were you when you when you developed your passion for basketball?

Kobe: Three years old.

 

MLT: To what degree did your father inspire you to develop this passion?

Kobe: He didn’t at all. He just gave me the option to play all kinds of sports. But I enjoyed basketball the most.

 

MLT: I remember once hearing you say that you always used to play many people one-on-one. Did playing one-one-one enhance your competitiveness?

Kobe: I think so. Because it was mano a mano. It definitely helped enhance it.

 

MLT: What happened at age 13, that made you realize that you could hold your own against anybody? Did you realize this after you beat your sisters and father?

Kobe: Around the same time. It was more the attitude. It just felt like I was the best player, it felt like I had the most moves.

 

MLT: Was it in your senior year you began working out with the 76ers?

Kobe: In the summer of ’95 (going into my senior year).

 

MLT: How did it feel being in high school and to have such an honor?

Kobe: It was cool. I didn’t look at it as an honor. I just looked at it as basketball, really. I really didn’t think about who I was playing against.  I knew they were NBA basketball players but that was it, it was just a chance to prove to them that I was a good basketball player.

 

MLT: How did you get the chance to practice with the 76ers?

Kobe: The (76ers) coach, John Lucas, had a daughter who went to Lower Merion and she told her father about me. Her father was curious, he knew my father (NBA veteran Joe Bryant), so he invited me to come down and play with them.

 

MLT: What did Joey Carbone (then assistant trainer for the 76ers) do to help you improve?

Kobe: He improved my game tremendously…high jump rebounds, weights, everything physical about my game.

 

MLT: What was a practice with the 76ers like compared to high school practices?

Kobe: Working with the 76ers was a lot easier because all we did was scrimmage, playing five on five, but in high school, we ran these suicide drills.

 

MLT: Did you learn anything from the 76ers that you brought back to Lower Merion?

Kobe: Some skills Lucas taught me, I still keep with me today.

 

MLT: Gregg Downer (Kobe’s coach at Lower Merion) said that each high school year, you got better and better. What did you do to improve?

Kobe: High school was about improving my (all-around) game. The more you play, the better you get.

 

MLT: Gregg Downer was saying that you still carry your high school state championship medal, that he saw it at the foot of your bed. Why is it still meaningful to you?

Kobe: That was a major part of my life. People said `you’re not going to be able to win.’ You know about Lower Merion. The odds were against us. It was like us against the world. We were able to do it. We conquered a huge challenge that year.

 

MLT: What was your proudest moment playing for Lower Merion?

Kobe: Winning the state championship.

 

MLT: Downer was saying that you set the initial spark for Lower Merion to win the state championship at the end of your junior year when your team lost in the playoffs. Can you elaborate?

Kobe: I made up my mind we were going to win the state championship the next year and there was nothing anybody could say or do about it.

 

MLT: How did it feel that hundreds of people made your decision of going to the NBA instead of college as a big topic of conversation?

Kobe: I didn’t care, it didn’t matter, the doubters bothered me a little but, but I figured in the long run, I’d prove them wrong anyway.

 

MLT: How did you deal with the criticism the talk shows gave you after you made your decision to go to the NBA instead of college?

Kobe: Same way, they’d shut up in the long run.

 

MLT: Describe how you felt playing your first NBA game.

Kobe: I felt very calm. I was anxious to go out and play because I broke my hand before the season. I couldn’t play for a period of time.

 

MLT: Did you score in that first game? (Jan. 28, 1997, against Dallas)

Kobe: I had 13 points and five assists. I felt relaxed.

 

MLT: Does your hand ever bother you now and then?

Kobe: Absolutely not.

 

MLT: Describe your working relationship with Shaquille O’Neal when you first joined the Lakers, and what did (current coach) Phil Jackson do to change it?

Kobe: He (Jackson) brought it to the level; He was a sharp coach, much sharper coach. Everyone knew we (Shaq and Kobe) could work well together.  It was just a matter of time. People need to realize that Shaq and I never really played together before. My first year, we didn’t play that much; the second year, I was still coming off the bench; third year was the half-season (due to the NBA strike), so this season was the first time we played together.

 

MLT: And you two just had a connection and picked up on each other’s moves?

Kobe: That was it.

 

MLT: Who started calling you the “little big brother?”

Kobe: Shaq did. That’s because I took big shots. It was after game four (of the NBA finals, after Bryant scored 28 points in a 120 118 overtime win against the Indiana Pacers).

 

MLT: How did you like being called that?

Kobe: It was cool.

 

MLT: When you got injured in game two of the finals, were you worried you’d miss the rest of the finals?

Kobe: Oh, no. I was going to play anyway. Even with the ankle problem. I’ve had other injuries, but nothing was as bad as the ankle sprain.

 

MLT: Were you able to walk on it before getting back into action?

Kobe: A little bit, gingerly.

 

MLT: How did it feel, winning an NBA title at so young an age?

Kobe: It feels good, like I can now go get some more.

 

MLT: So, this is only the beginning for you?

Kobe: Absolutely.

 

MLT: What was your reason for getting involved with the launch of a recording company?

Kobe: There’s a lot of young talent out there that needs to be discovered, that needs to be heard. It was an opportunity for me to help them so they can do something well for themselves. (The label is called Heads High.)

 

MLT: Will you have a CD under your name?

Kobe: Maybe.

 

MLT: What is your involvement with this basketball league in Italy?

Kobe: I’m involved with a part-time owner of a basketball league.

 

MLT: Is it because you spent time in Italy when you were younger? (Kobe lived in Italy when his father played in a league over there.)

Kobe: Yeah, that had something to do with it.

 

MLT: How fluent is your Italian?

Kobe: It’s still pretty sharp.

 

MLT: Do you see yourself as a role model for younger kids?

Kobe: Some regards, yes.

 

MLT: How does it feel?

Kobe: It feels great. I think a lot of people have the idea confused and mixed up believing role models have to be perfect all the time. That’s not the case. The idea of a role model is if you do make a mistake people can look at you as an example and not make the same mistake.

 

MLT: While playing for the Lakers, are there times you think of the Main Line?

Kobe: Oh, sure. I miss the high school, a lot of my high school buddies went to college. We still have a lot of memories.

 

MLT: Do you still keep up with them?

Kobe: Absolutely.

 

MLT: When was the last time you were on the Main Line?

Kobe: A couple (of) summers ago.

 

MLT: When you came back, was it easy for you to be left alone?

Kobe: Yeah, it was cool, it was pretty good. I was able to ride around peacefully, go out to eat peacefully. I still go back to the high school sometimes.

 

MLT: Were you able to be left in peace after winning the championships?

Kobe: (laughs) No, out here it’s crazy. You can’t go anywhere.

 

MLT: How do you handle it?

Kobe: You take it in stride. It comes with the territory.