Kobe Bryant is very self-aware.
If you take nothing else away from Chuck Klosterman’s interview with Kobe in the latest edition of GQ, take that. He is not coasting through the end of his career; he is trying to take charge of it. He is trying to leave the game he loves on his terms.
He knows he has weaknesses, but his understanding of them makes him more dangerous. One thing many critics have said of him is he shoots too much. Klosterman mentions that but Kobe came back with an unusual reference for an athlete.
“I’ve shot too much from the time I was eight years old,” Bryant says. “But ‘too much’ is a matter of perspective. Some people thought Mozart had too many notes in his compositions. Let me put it this way: I entertain people who say I shoot too much. I find it very interesting. Going back to Mozart, he responded to critics by saying there were neither too many notes or too few. There were as many as necessary.”
Kobe believes in himself. Teammates have to earn his trust. So yes, at times he believes he is the better person to take a key shot — even a contested one — than a teammate he does not have full confidence in. But he has trusted teammates before, including the big names like Shaq and Pau Gasol, as well as role players like Derek Fisher or Brian Shaw. And Kobe does pass.
Kobe is a quote machine in the GQ article, and he talks about thinks like his relationship with Shaq and Phil Jackson.
“(Jackson is) also very intelligent, and he understood the dynamic he had to deal with between me and Shaq. So he would take shots at me in the press, and I understood he was doing that in order to ingratiate himself to Shaq. And since I knew what he was doing, I felt like that was an insult to my intelligence. I mean, I knew what he was doing. Why not just come to me and tell me that? Another thing was that I would go to him in confidence and talk about certain things, and he would then use those things to manipulate the media against me. And from that standpoint, I finally said, “No way. I’m not gonna deal with that anymore.” This was during our first run, during those first three championships. So when he’d come out in the press and say those things about me, I was finally like, “F— it. I’m done with this guy. I’ll play for him and win championships, but I will have no interaction with him.” Yet at the same time, it drove me at a maniacal pace. Because either consciously or unconsciously, he put a tremendous amount of pressure on me to be efficient, and to be great, and to be great now.”