Try telling Kobe Bryant winning isn't everything and he'll probably smack you.
Athletes complicit with descending into aging pits Father Time dug for them don't shatter their rehabilitation timetables. And they most certainly don't come up with defiant one-word answers to profound questions.
"Six," he answered.
As in that sixth championship. The one that he didn't win last season with Dwight Howard, and the one even some of his biggest supporters don't see him getting next year in the aftermath of Superman's departure.
"And perhaps seven even?" the interviewer asked.
"We'll start with six and we'll go from there," Kobe said.
The only thing Kobe is focused on is returning to the basketball court in an effort to snag that sixth ring. That's how he stays motivated, how he stays engaged. And now that the Lakers have detractors materializing out of thin air, he's as committed as ever.
“I’m excited about this upcoming year because there are a lot of question marks, a lot of people doubting and giving us challenges…” Kobe said, as transcribed by ProBasketballTalk's Kurt Heilin.
Few would be excited about the season the Lakers are supposed to be nearing. Howard is gone, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol have become question marks and Kobe will be competing for shot attempts alongside fellow chucker Nick Young. The circumstances are less than ideal.
But he doesn't care.
Kobe has fed off this very uncertainty his entire career. Since he came into the league as a teenager out of high school, he's faced questions from non-believers and skepticism from a number of doubters.
Each and every time, he's had an answer, accumulating five titles in the process.
More than three years removed from his last championship, and almost two decades into his career, he finds himself back in familiar territory.
"We know, just like in anything, it doesn’t matter how many star players you have as long as you have a group of players that play well together and are focused on getting to the common goal together," Kobe explained. "That’s really what matters the most."
His refusal to yield to his own limits and undying need to win—that's what really matters most.