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Kobe Bryant The Interview: Key Takeaways, Comments from NBA TV Special

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2015

USA Today

Nobody's seen Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant on an NBA court since a Jan. 21 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. On Monday night, basketball fans were offered a different look at the 17-time All-Star in a revealing interview aired on NBA TV.

Aptly titled, Kobe: The Interview allowed fans to develop a better understanding of Bryant. It was an exhaustive examination of his 19-year career thus far, his overall legacy in the game and what the future may hold. Bryant shared a side of himself that most often aren't afforded.

Throughout his time in the league, Bryant has been inextricably linked to Michael Jordan. Almost everything he's done on the court has been compared to MJ's accomplishments, for better or worse.

While it was always inaccurate and unfair to label Kobe "The Next Jordan," he's certainly the closest thing to Jordan the league has seen since MJ retired.

Bryant spoke about how he wanted to model his game after Jordan's, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

Mark Medina @MarkG_Medina

Kobe on MJ: "His technique was flawless. I wanted to make sure my technique was just as flawless."

The special included archived game footage of Bryant and Jordan facing off, which showed Kobe attempting to pick Jordan's brain right on the court, per NBA writer Chris Palmer:

Chris Martin Palmer @ChrisPalmerNBA

Kobe asking MJ for advice during the game. While guarding him. That's amazing. #KobeTheInterview

Kobe: The Interview should serve as a nice coda to all of the Bryant-Jordan discussions.

Interviewer Ahmad Rashad steered the conversation back to the present, asking Bryant who in the NBA today most resembles his game. The answer shouldn't surprise many fans:

NBA TV @NBATV

.@NBATVAhmad asked Kobe who reminds him of himself today. Bryant said "Westbrook plays mean. He plays mean like I did." #KobeTheInterview

Bryant and Westbrook seem very similar, at least with regard to their playing styles. Like Kobe, Westbrook does it his own way, whether that means taking ill-advised shots at times or giving his teammates a look of utter disdain.

It will be interesting to see if the comparison soon becomes an albatross around Westbrook's neck, much like the juxtaposition with Jordan was for Bryant.

Kobe also discussed his failures on the court, of which there aren't all that many. He wasted little time in calling the Lakers' defeat to the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals the worst loss of his career.

Bryant was even willing to open up about his relationship with Shaquille O'Neal. Despite all of the success he and Shaq enjoyed on the court, he revealed that the two didn't exactly see eye to eye, via Medina:

Mark Medina @MarkG_Medina

Kobe was asked if he and Shaq were friends: "No." Why couldn't you co exist? "I'm obsessive and believe you need to work night and day."

Due in part to how he failed to mesh with O'Neal, Bryant has earned a reputation over the years for being extremely demanding of his teammates, perhaps to a fault. He's never been afraid to call out his teammates during practice or in the press.

Kobe said that that anger and occasional contempt wasn't anything personal; he simply wanted to help his teammates elevate their game:

NBA TV @NBATV

Kobe on being a leader. "You want them to be the best versions of themselves." #KobeTheInterview

Possibly the biggest takeaway from the interview is that Bryant is becoming more and more introspective about his career, which is almost always a sign that a star is coming to terms with his sporting mortality.

However, it doesn't appear Bryant is ready to hang it up just yet when asked if this is the end, per ESPN.com:

I can't say it is the end. I thought the Spurs were done 20 years ago. Those guys are still winning. So, to answer the question, I can't say this is the end of my era because I thought their (era) was done and they're still there. So I'm hoping I can have the same rebirth.

For much of their careers, legends like Bryant think they can persevere through sheer strength of willpower. Sooner or later, though, they're physically unable to do things they had previously done, and as a result, they accept that the end is near.

Kobe's last two seasons have plainly illustrated how quickly things can fall apart. He played in only six games in 2013-14, returning from an Achilles injury in December, only to fracture his left knee that same month. The 2014-15 season is wiped out after surgery on his right rotator cuff.

To a certain extent, he sees the curtain closing on his NBA career, whether it's next year, two years from now, three years from now or whenever. And he's going to savor each and every one of the finite minutes he has left.

"You get older," Kobe said, via Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding. "You start seeing the beauty that's in that process. You start trying to find love in that, find the beauty in that, which is completely different than being 21."

Bryant did say in the interview that it's far too early to completely throw in the towel.

However, after Rashad asked what's motivating his comeback attempt, Bryant added that even he can't be sure if he'll be as effective as he needs to be once he's back to 100 percent.

"I want to see if I can. I don't know if I can," he said, per The Associated Press, via NBA.com. "I want to find out. I want to see. What I'm going to do is do what I always do: I'm going to break everything down to its smallest form, smallest detail, and go after it day by day. Just one day at a time."

Although it can't replicate the same feeling that comes with watching Bryant in action on a nightly basis, Kobe: The Interview was an illuminating peek inside the mind of arguably the greatest basketball player of his generation.

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