The NBA’s most confident, determined and prolific player showed a moment of insecurity on a night he almost single-handedly carried the Lakers to a win.
Even if the Lakers ultimately fell short in a 107-102 loss Friday to the Clippers, Kobe Bryant’s 38 points on 15 of 25 shooting and defense on Chris Paul that led to a 11 of 25 mark from the field impressed coach Mike D’Antoni so much that he touted it as “one of the best I’ve ever seen” without prompting. Yet, shortly after the loss, Bryant tweeted this message on his newly formed Twitter account.
“Thoughts of self doubt…Am I done? Is this how my career will end?? I REFUSE to give in to these thoughts. #strongwill #countonchallenges”
Bryant hardly backtracked on his tweet following Saturday’s practice. Instead, he embraced it.
“Everybody has it,” Bryant said. “I think the way I react to it is different than everybody else. I don’t feed into it. I’m able to face, I’m able to deal with it and I’m able to get through it. That’s probably the difference between myself and other people.”
To illustrate his point, Bryant admitted having doubt when he first entered the NBA as a 17-year-old rookie in 1996 and even before posting a career-high 81 points in 2006 against the Toronto Raptors. Bryant figured such admission will make his teammates feel comfortable knowing he has a vulnerable side. He’s particularly eager to see how they respond to it when the Lakers (15-17) play the Denver Nuggets (18-16) Sunday at Staples Center. That marks the the beginning of a week that also includes a back-to-back Tuesday and Wednesday against the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs and a home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a stretch of games Bryant describes as a “murderous row.”
“It’s good for them, especially for them to know I have those moments as well,” Bryant said. “I’m sure they’ve had them. I don’t know how they respond to them. Maybe in certain instances, maybe they let the self doubt get the best of them. I refuse to let that happen. I think it’s good for us.”
Bryant seemed in a relaxed mood after practice while sitting in one of Phil Jackson’s old elevated and cushion cheers. That led Bryant to joke, “Is this the chair he proposed in?” to longtime companion Jeanie Buss, the Lakers executive vice president of business operations. As if to illustrated his willingness to address difficult moments directly, Bryant revisited his tumultuous time playing with Shaquille O’Neal before he was traded following the 2003-04 season.
“You’re not going to find another duo like that ever,” he said. “There are other duos that are better than us. [Scottie] Pippen and [Michael] Jordan. But you’ll never find a duo with two dominant personalities. Myself and Shaquille, that was kind of once in a lifetime.”
That’s because the Lakers won three consecutive titles.
“I sacrificed quite a bit in individual numbers and MVPs and NBA Finals [MVPs] and all this other stuff,” Bryant said. “Phil [Jackson] used to come to us as a team and let me take over during the march to the Finals. Then in the Finals, which was mostly Eastern Conference teams that didn’t have any centers, we went through Shaq. Those are things I was willing to sacrifice. And you have to have that sacrifice if that dynamic’s going to work.”
It wasn’t easy.
“I’m amazed it went as long as it did,” Bryant said. “We’re both alpha males. It just wasn’t going to happen. What do you think would happen if you put Jordan with Wilt [Chamberlain]? Not going to happen.”
So does Bryant believe the two ever left championships on the table?
“Yeah we did,” he said. “But the big thing for me was when he did an interview with ESPN The Magazine and he said that he felt like I couldn’t win without him. I was fine up until that point,” Bryant said. “I’ll be damned if I retire and you [reporters] say I couldn’t win without this guy. After that, the line was drawn in the sand.”
Bryant currently plays with another star center. But he doesn’t buy the comparisons between playing with O’Neal and Dwight Howard.
“It’s not the same thing,” he said. “That team it was me and Shaq and a bunch of role players who were excellent role players. Here it’s me, Dwight, Steve [Nash], Pau [Gasol].”
And right now, Bryant has admitted this experiment might not work. But as indicated in the tweet, he vows he won’t let that doubt affect his pysche.
“I thought it was simple and self explanatory,” Bryant said of the tweet. “It didn’t seem like it was very too philosophical. I thought it was fun.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org