For the record, I’m fine with Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant being an undeniable, unrepentant ball hog. It’s who he was when he came into the league, it’s who he has been since he took the reins from Shaq as the man in L.A., and it’s who he will be right up until the inevitable, messy break-up that leads to his forced retirement.
At the same time, I also recognize that while him being such a massive, unapologetic gunner probably went a long way in helping the Lakers secure five chips – it will also likely cost them a few down the road. Bryant’s total lack of shooting consciousness -- the same one that allowed him to take shots that nobody in the league had the stones to take time after time en route to all-time greatness -- will continue to show itself increasingly more often as it already has on way too many occasions this season.
And again, that’s fine. I’ve already come to peace with this fact, and I urge every Lakers fan to do the same. The reason I urge everyone to come to terms with this fact, mind you, is because it’s actually ridiculously enjoyable to watch once you accept it.
Recently, Kobe took the time out to speak to ESPN money magnet Rick Reilly. In the interview, Reilly legitimately pressed him on what an unproductive ball hog he can be at times, and Kobe’s responses…well, they were amazing.
Here are some of the best excerpts from the piece:
He went 6-for-28 the other night. For the season, he's hit only 41.7 percent. Entering Thursday, that tied him for 214th in the league.
And he doesn't care.
"Look, I've played 15 years. I've won world championships. I've done all these things. And people still want to talk about this stupid-a** [stuff]? I'm a scorer first ... I'll try to make the good play, the good pass, kick it out when my teammates are open, but I'm a scorer first. I may shoot 27 times. I may shoot 20 times. Nobody complains when I shoot 10 times. You don't hear ME complaining when I shoot 10 times. It just depends on the game, you know?"
Yes, but Kobe, according to ESPN research, you have the highest "usage rate" -- that's the number of possessions a player uses per 40 minutes -- in the NBA. In fact, your usage rate (38.9) would be the highest in the 3-point era of NBA--
--"Yeah," he says. "And I also have five rings."
Yes, but Kobe, stats show that the Lakers are 29-4 when rising star center Andrew Bynum scores 20 points. Shouldn't it be a high priority for you to--
--"That's great. How many of those shots come from me kicking it to him for good looks when I'm being doubled?"
Besides his coming divorce, which he doesn't talk about, nothing is going to change Kobe Bryant. Whether Phil Jackson is his coach or new Lakers coach Mike Brown. ("Right now, Kobe Bryant allows me to coach him," Brown said the other day, and not kiddingly.) Whether Chris Paul is his teammate or Paul is playing across the hall for the Clipp--
--"Not true," says Kobe. "Chris would've created shots for me. I wouldn't be shooting 29 times a game. I'd be shooting 40. Man, what would people be saying THEN?"
Priceless. Absolutely, positively priceless.
Kobe will never change. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, he’ll shoot a glance to a wide open Andrew Bynum, and then take a long three in double coverage. He’ll drive to the basketball in traffic, see Jason Kapono standing in the corner without a single man on him, and then get stripped trying to score anyway.
That’s just who he is. And as much as I’d love to see another parade in Los Angeles – I also wouldn’t want No. 24 any other way.