It seemed that Kobe Bryant could never satisfy his appetite for basketball enough.
He played throughout his childhood and endlessly studied the NBA’s history. He woke up at ungodly hours to expedite his development. He watched film endlessly. He lasted 20 mostly productive NBA seasons by endlessly adding nuances to his game and training regimen.
Bryant has as many as 11 games left to play, beginning with when the Lakers (15-56) host the Denver Nuggets (30-42) on Friday at Staples Center. But will Bryant satisfy his basketball fix by remaining a student of the league? Perhaps not as much as you’d think.
“It’s difficult for me to actually watch an entire game from the start to end,” Bryant said. “The game is just too long and it’s too much time. It’s true, though.”
The reasons apparently have nothing to do with wanting to take a vacation after the Lakers’ season finale against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on April 13. After already creating his own company (Kobe, Inc.) and investing in a sports energy drink (Body Armor) and a website (Players Tribune), Bryant reported he will “be at work the next day” following his retirement.
“I’m incapable of taking a break,” Bryant said. “I like working and like being active and doing things. My mind has to be focused on something. It has to be.”
If Bryant stays connected to the game, it will not be as a fan. It will not entail a comeback similar to Michael Jordan, who both with the Chicago Bulls and later with the Washington Wizards.
“Michael and I are very different,” Bryant said. “Very similar from a competition perspective. But we’re very very different. So, no.”
Instead, Bryant will exert his influence on the game in a different way.
He will likely continue to host in annual summer camp in Santa Barbara. He will likely continue to conduct clinics overseas. He will likely continue to mentor the league’s crop of young stars, both on the Lakers and elsewhere.
“Not too many players are fortunate enough to be able to actually see the growth of the league. I’ve seen five generations,” Bryant said. “That’s crazy. Now I get a chance to talk to them and get a chance to help them and see where the league is going.”
That part appears uncertain. But Bryant sounded certain about his emotions surrounding his pending retirement.
“It really feels the same to me. It didn’t get any more real for me than when the moment I realized I don’t want to do this anymore,” Bryant said. “So it wasn’t even a matter of a countdown or, ‘What it’s going to be like when this day comes?’ The day has already come for me. It came and it went. Once the decision was made that I don’t want to do this anymore, that was it. I haven’t thought about what it’s going to be like or anything of that nature. The biggest thing for me with my decision is the actual decision itself.”
Hence, Bryant insists he will not become tearful once it’s over.
“It should be viewed as a great moment, I think,” he said. “It’s a celebration, really. It’s 20 years. I’m very fortunate to play 20 years. That’s a long time. The way I’ve always looked at it is, don’t be sad about it. Hopefully, throughout my career, you can take some of the attributes that I’ve had, like focus and things like that, and you can carry on whatever it is that you choose to do.”