We've gotten 17 long years to dissect Kobe Bryant and learn every minute detail about who he is—on the court.
On Thursday night, though, we got a better chance off of the hardwood to go deeper into the mind of the Black Mamba and learn more about one of the greatest stars in NBA history, as he lent himself to a live interview with late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel at the Nokia Center L.A. Live in a charity event for the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Sports Spectacular.
There were reportedly several thousand people in attendance, a turnout ESPN's Ramona Shelbourne thinks only a few other sports figures could attract:
If you think about, it was an unprecedented event: one of the greatest players in history opening up for a very candid interview—in which fans got to participate—in the midst of a highly publicized return from a career-threatening injury.
Opportunities like these are few and far between. Let's take a look at some of the biggest takeaways from "Kobe Up Close."
Kobe's Relationship with the Lakers
In short, it's good.
Bryant began the interview by talking about his place in Los Angeles Lakers history. There have been a lot of incredible players who have waltzed through this franchise, and as a result, an argument for "Best Laker Ever" can be made for a few different players.
For Kobe, though, it's the man he learned the most from—Magic Johnson, per ESPN's Arash Markazi:
Bryant has always been known as a confident, stone-cold killer, but that's a pretty impressive amount of humility right there.
Of course, the Mamba still has some time to build on his legacy. After talking about how he always felt he belonged in the Purple and Gold, he made it clear he isn't going anywhere:
Bryant has just one year remaining on his current contract, but as long as he continues to play at a high level, it sounds like there's a good chance he'll be re-signing.
One of the more interesting moments of the interview came when he was talking about his own pre-draft experience many years ago. The "other" Los Angeles team showed a lot of interest in him, but decided to pass:
The veteran also talked a little bit about his former teammates:
And a current one, whom he has a strong relationship with:
Kobe as a Tar Heel?
Bryant famously entered the NBA draft straight out of Lower Merion High School back in 1996, and there's a simple question we always wonder about guys who skipped college: Where would he have gone?
With Kobe, it would have been North Carolina, per Markazi:
Could you imagine?
Bryant would have played on Dean Smith's last team during the 1996-97 season, teaming up with Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter on a squad that was talented enough to make it to the Final Four without him.
You think maybe Mike Krzyzewski or Lute Olson—whose Arizona Wildcats won the title that year—are counting their lucky stars that Bryant decided to go to the NBA instead?
Kobe's Toughest Competition
In 17 seasons, Bryant has faced an incredible amount of formidable opponents. The one he's had the most trouble with?
Tracy McGrady, per AXS TV:
T-Mac, a fellow guard who forwent college, hasn't aged quite as brilliantly as Bryant, but he was a downright deadly scorer in his prime, leading the league during the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons with the Orlando Magic.
Kobe's All-Time Starting 5
This is another one that is often highly debated, but it's always good to have the opinion of one of the greatest of all time.
Here is Kobe's top five:
He also talked a little more about Michael Jordan:
That somewhat epitomizes the theme of the interview, which was respect. Bryant talked with much respect about Magic, Jordan, his teammates and the future of the NBA (mentioning Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kyrie Irving).
Which is all more than you can learn from game film.
Kobe took to Twitter after the interview was over:
I think we can all agree another edition of "Kobe Up Close" is a must.