Chris Ballard went long on Kobe Bryant for Sports Illustrated and it's an illuminating look into the extent of Kobe's mania for winning. He values winning so much more than everything else, even being liked by his own teammates, that when asked to describe him in three words Steve Nash chose "mother fucking asshole."
With his career winding down as he comes back from a torn achilles and knee injury that kept him out of all but six games last year, Kobe tells Ballard that he sees his role with the Lakers now as "asshole in chief." He doesn't believe in Kumbaya and chemistry-through-good-times. He doesn't want to be a "social butterfly," he wants to lead them to the promised land.
"It's never easy, man. This s—- is hard. So when players look in the distance and see us winning championships and see us celebrating and having a good time, they think, 'Oh, this is what leadership is, this is how you win, everyone gets along, we're all buddy-buddy, we all hang out, blah, blah.' "
Bryant shifts in his seat, leans forward. "No it's not like that. You talk to Lamar [Odom], Adam Morrison. We were at each other's throats every day. Challenging each other, confronting each other. That's how it gets done. But that's hard, because it's uncomfortable, right? It's uncomfortable."
And that's at least one of the reasons why Nash decided to describe him as a "mother fucking asshole."
The whole thing is worth putting some time aside for; it's chock full of crazy Kobe anecdotes. These are things we've always kind of known about him, but now we have quotes. For instance, he refers to many peoples as muses. Early on while rehabbing his knee, he was limited to 45 minutes of activity per day and it was driving him insane. So he found a way to fill his time.
So Bryant watched Modern Family with his kids and read business tomes and spent long hours talking with people he admires and filling a series of notebooks. He's on his fourth now. "Just nothing but sketches and drawing and org charts and direction and all this s—-. Conversations I've had with muses, how they built their company, notes and all kinds of s—-."
And this is Kobe talking to Gotham Chopra, who filmed a documentary on Bryant to be released in November, about raising a family:
(At one point Gotham introduced his seven-year-old son to Kobe. Afterward, Bryant turned to Gotham and said, "I'm thinking of creating one of those," as if a son were a product.)
More obsessing over success:
Of late, Bryant has become obsessed with obsessives, and he devours biographies of iconoclasts. Often he'll divulge some factoid like, "Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci didn't break onto the art scene until he was 46 years old? Forty-six?!?" Bryant recently cold-called Apple exec Jonathan Ive and Oprah Winfrey, among others, asking for business advice.
Ballard was in China with Bryant where he often spoke to kids and continually hammered home the same things: "be strong...learn from mistakes, and never stop trying to get better." This is because winning is the ultimate goal, everything else only furthers the goal.
When he spoke recently with one of his various Kobe Inc. partners, a moment caught by Gotham on film, Bryant groused about "this thing where we seem to be O.K. for kids to receive medals for fourth place. . . . It's bull——." Instead Kobe wants to use his company to foster, as he calls it, "the spirit of competition."
At home, Bryant drills his eight-year old daughter on winning, only he calls it "competing." The lesson remains the same: Sometimes you lose, but when you do, it just reminds you of how much you like to win.
Kobe plans on retiring in two years so we've got two seasons left of the most intense motherfucking asshole to play since Michael Jordan. Go ahead and read the rest of the article here, especially if you're curious whether Kobe thinks "Katy Perry is a genius businesswoman or just a plain genius."
Photo Credit: Getty Images
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