After Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Michael Jordan showed up at Rucker Park for the morning session of yesterday’s World Basketball Festival, there was only one way Nike could potentially one-up themselves: Bringing Kobe Bryant up to 155th & Frederick Douglass for this morning’s session.
While a group of local kids were running through their paces at the Chainlink Fundamentals clinic, Kobe suddenly appeared in front of them — causing about half of them to freeze in their defensive slide drills while jaws hit the floor.
After the initial surprise wore off, it was back to business. Kobe shared his tips of playing lock-down defense (keep your feet wide in your slide), then made his way around stations offering pointers on jump-shot form, ball-handling, and moving without the ball. Between coaching, Kobe chatted with ex-NBA player Kenny Satterfield, and NYC playground legend Mike Campbell.
Kobe then sat down for a quick Q&A with Nike. Some of the highlights:
– After playing “four or five years straight” between long playoff runs and Team USA commitments, Kobe said he’s taking it slower this summer. Surgery on his right knee obviously contributed to that process.
– Kobe talked about attending the World Cup in South Africa and working with kids over there, plus spending some time in China. He said he’s learning some Mandarin, but doesn’t know enough yet to speak it publicly.
– On the influence of international players in the NBA, he said with the Lakers specifically the additions of players like Pau Gasol have made them a better team at passing, cutting and other fundamentals that often get overlooked. He said he’d like to see the international influence continue and create more “hybrid” players in the League who can do it all.
– On USA Basketball’s World Championship team, said defense and rebounding will be the key.
– Kobe said his 5th NBA championship was the hardest one to get, crediting the Celtics for being a tough opponent. He said along the way he doubted if L.A. could pull it off, especially in Game Seven. (“Can we really do this?”)
– New York City is one of his favorite places to play because the fans are knowledgeable about basketball and there’s always a buzz and electricity, whether it’s at MSG or Rucker Park.
– In the World Championship field, Kobe said Spain will be the toughest team to beat. “In terms of tough teams, Spain has to be that one.”
– Kobe said his knee is “getting stronger every day” and considers this bout of rehab part of getting prepared for next season and attempting to three-peat.
After the Q&A, Kobe headed off to Niketown on 57th Street in midtown Manhattan for an appearance. He is also going to watch Team USA’s scrimmage against China later today at MSG, although that event is not open to the public.