The Los Angeles Lakers had an off day in Atlanta while they wait to play the Hawks on Friday, and Kobe Bryant spent some of it speaking with Ernie Johnson of TNT for an interview that aired on Inside the NBA. Silver Screen and Roll already covered which defender Kobe says gave him the most trouble over his career. Here is a transcript of the rest of their interview, or you can watch the whole thing here.
On if there is any chance of him changing his mind about retirement:
On the best competitors he ever faced:
"Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson are the two that come to mind immediately, just because they were just relentless. Michael, his relentlessness was amazing, Scottie [Pippen]'s as well, at both ends of the floor. Then in my generation, AI was much the same, from opening tip to the end this guy was just going and going and going. He would always put you in jeopardy. So those two guys were the most competitive I've faced."
If he were to write letters to three most influential people in his life, who would they be and what would they say?
"From a basketball perspective? I'd say I'd write one to Michael, Bill Russell, and Jerry West. Saying thank you for your mentorship, thank you for always being there for me when I reach out and call."
On his advice for his younger self:
"Focus on human nature. You have to balance out understanding human nature with the obsession to understand the exact tactics of basketball. As I've gotten older, I've understood you can execute until the cows come home, but if you don't understand human nature, if you don't understand how to relate to others, if you don't understand what makes them tick, you are never going to win a championship."
On if he could rank his five titles and which would be best:
"The standing answer should be no. But that's just not true. When we beat Boston in 2010, for me that's number one with a bullet, because going up against three sure Hall of Famers, being down in the series 3-2, having lost to them in 2008, and understanding the history and the rivalry and all that goes on there. And having a broken finger, and playing with the cast off. All of those things make that championship more special than the rest."
On if retiring with less than six titles bother him:
"No. I did everything I possibly could. It sounds crazy to say I won five championships and come up one short. But honestly I'm okay with that. It just wasn't in the cards for me to get six or seven. I did everything possible to try to make it happen, and I can live with that any day."
On what his one career do-over would be:
"If I had a do-over, I think, I would take more of a leadership role in talking to Shaq. Earlier, before things went south."
On if he has made up with Shaquille O'Neal and Phil Jackson, or if that is still an ongoing process:
"No that process, it's over with. The memories that we had are the memories that we had doing battle. Of us against the world, and coming out on top. When you have those moments, it forms a certain type of bond that becomes bigger than the game, it becomes bigger than whatever bickering might have gone on. So I think that was the first step, and then the second step was just maturity, we are both much older than we were at the time. And with Phil, when Phil came back to coach in 2006, that was our process. We started that from the first day he came here. When he came back and said 'You know what? I want to come help you get these next championships.' And I said 'Phil it is not my job to judge or to hold grudges.' I understand more than most people that people make mistakes and we move on."
On what will he miss most about playing in the NBA:
"I think the puzzle of trying to figure out how to get the best out of my teammates. The challenging of them, the relationships I have with them, and then watching them develop from training camp all the way in through the postseason and into the Finals, where they're the best version of themselves. That process is the thing that I'll miss the most."
On if he sees himself as a television analyst:
"No. [laughs] I just, I don't have the patience to do TV. You know what's crazy to me is you know, looking at Charles, you are looking at a transition of a player from athlete to post. He is certainly a blueprint. He found what he loves to do and what he's great at." After some prodding from Johnson, Bryant admitted he would go on Inside the NBA in exchange for a "60% revenue split from the show."
All quotes transcribed via TNT's "Inside the NBA"