Kobe Bryant’s record speaks for itself. He has been chosen for the All-Star game 18 times and won the prestigious All-Star most valuable player four times. He took his team, Los Angeles Lakers, to five NBA titles and was part of the US team that won gold at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Into his 20th season, Kobe announced that the current one would be his last and Sunday’s All-Star game his final appearance in the match where fans choose the line-up. The rush to interview him on Friday showed who the real star was among the other players.
This is your last All-Star game, does it feel?
I feel blessed. How many players can say they have played for 20 years and with so many of the best players across generations.
What is your favourite All-Star memory?
It was my first All-Star game in 1998. Sharing the locker room with greats like John Stockton and Clyde Drexler and other top names was a good feeling.
Satnam Singh and Sim Bhullar have been drafted in the NBA. How does it feel that the NBA is going to places as far as India and producing players too?
It’s fantastic. Look at Marco (Belinelli) of Italy, NBA wasn’t that global then and was yet to penetrate the European market. But the camps, coaching seminars they conducted there, it’s the result of that. I also benefitted from those clinics. All those coaches I grew up playing for, had great mentorship. It’s amazing for the NBA to continue growing. It is a beautiful game and so many life lessons can be learnt from the sport.
What would you say about Satnam and Sim?
A new generation of players is coming out and it’s good for India to have them. I have never been to India but I want to come and teach the new generation this beautiful sport.
Your advice to young players
The more you will play, the better you will be. Play for your dreams. There is no secret formula. I used to play in the driveway, playground. So just play and play, you will get better.
You are a competitive player, after NBA will you try out another sport? Baseball or cricket?
No competitive sport after retirement.
Can you imagine what your first day will be after retirement?
I’ll probably wake up, have some coffee and go back to sleep.
For the first time, the All-Star game has been moved out of America to Canada. How does it feel to play in Toronto?
It’s very cold. Toronto is one of my favorite cities. It’s such a beautiful city and extremely well deserving to have an All-Star Weekend.
(The writer’s trip is sponsored by NBA)