The season wasn’t even halfway done, and Kobe Bryant had still uttered enough to reporters to fill a top-10 list. Bryant is still going strong in 2012-13 as we get within a month of the playoffs.
After a loss to Philadelphia dropped the Lakers to a disappointing 15-16 on the season in early January, Kobe told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that there was a simple answer for the Lakers troubles. When asked why the Lakers have experienced a lack of energy so far this season, he replied, “‘Cause we’re old as shit.” This is not the first time Kobe has popped off to the media this season, though. No, there have been countless times already this year where Kobe’s unfiltered anger/snark/humor/vengeance boiled over and reporters were there, pen in hand.
Here are the 10 best so far…
(UPDATED, March 14: We’ve included some new quotes from the Lakers’ renewed playoff run, a veritable gold mine of Mamba-isms.)
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10. “He Jalen Rose’d me.”
Bryant has a memory like Google. After severely spraining his ankle on March 13 against Atlanta on a potentially game-tying jumper after landing on Dahntay Jones‘ heel, Bryant mentally searched his index of BS plays and came up with just ONE other that offended him this badly.
â€” Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) March 14, 2013
#dangerousplay that should have been called. Period.
â€” Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) March 14, 2013
Yep, Jalen Rose was the only other culprit for such an ankle-under-the-foot play. Any player will side with Bryant in that it’s strictly not OK when a defender puts his foot under your landing space on a jumper. You can hate Bryant as a player but that fact is non-negotiable if you’ve ever suited up. Still, labeling the play after the only other person to do that to you seems like a classic Bryant move. Kobe remembers all.
What would other stars’ similar reactions be like?
Michael Jordan: “He Reggie Miller‘d me.”
Bryon Russell: “He Michael Jordan‘d me.”
Alton Lister: “He Shawn Kemp‘d me.”
Brandon Knight: “He DeAndre Jordan‘d me.”
Yao Ming: “He Kobe Bryant‘d me.”
9. “Man, I’ll talk to him. Just go out there and bust their ass. Show them what they’re missing.”
This was in response to Howard’s game on March 13 in Orlando, his first time back in Central Florida in another uniform after his contentious exit the summer before. Howard had spent the past week apologizing, and rightfully so, for his dumb comments about his former Magic teammates being untalented, essentially. But trying to save face only looked like a weakness for Bryant. Enter Kobe, whose advice is to say screw them, just go out there and dominate. We can’t think of a more classic “Kobe” sentiment than to turn your blood cold and rip out someone’s heart. Kobe may appear to be more open about his life and future retirement this season at 34, but don’t mistake his openness for vulnerability. He’ll reach in and stop your team’s heart like it’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” if you give him a chance.
8. “He’s good, he’s getting the f___ outta the way.”
When ESPN Los Angeles reporter Arash Markazi asked Kobe Bryant what he thought after a couple games playing for Bernie Bickerstaff, Kobe again sounded off without the filter normally reserved for such tenuous questions surrounding your coach. Kobe said Bickerstaff was good, but with the caveat that it’s only because “he’s getting the f___ outta the way.” The implicit undertone of the comment was that former coach, Mike Brown, with all his calls for tougher defense and his new Princeton offense, wasn’t getting out of the way enough for the Lakers to succeed. It also doubles as a warning to management to get a real coach on the sidelines, or Kobe’s personality was going to eat the team alive. The implied theme of this quote is that Kobe and the Lakers are a talented bunch, who had – at that time – been offset by coaching ineptitude, even as he’d earlier supported his former coach. It was a fun quote in an already fun season for the Lakers; fun, that is, for everybody but Lakers fans.
And really, with the additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, the Lakers are talented enough on paper where a coach doesn’t seem all that necessary. As Bryant shows us with his next quip, he, and he alone, represents the Lakers.
7. “It’s not like if you ask Dwight or if you ask myself, we don’t dislike each other at all. It’s not like when Shaq and I were feuding. We didn’t want to be around each other. With me and Dwight, that’s just not the situation. It’s not like we’re best friends either, but it’s a good understanding I think.”
Kobe talked about his relationship with Dwight Howard to Michael Wilbon in mid-March and provided a much more realistic picture than Howard ever will. Kobe can stretch the truth, but is reliably a no-BS player in his dealings with media. Howard, however, wants everyone to like him. You can’t always trust what he says knowing he’ll put a veneer over a team’s cracks. Case in point:
Kobe on Dwight: “He’s a very nice kid who wants to say the right things and please as many people as he can but he can’t please everybody.”
â€” Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 10, 2013
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsSo why is this important? This season the temptation to view the Lakers’ season from extremes (They’ll never make the playoffs! suddenly became They’re a dangerous team in the playoffs!) is extremely strong, and we’re guilty of it, as well. Howard’s attitude follows that curve, but Bryant’s been some how a voice of reason, injecting the gray into a team judged on black-or-white, the “maybe” answer into a yes or no question. When he’s asked about his relationship with Howard, Bryant is honest when he says it’s still evolving. They’re not sworn enemies nor off-the-court buddies, but they’re somewhere in the middle working it out. That’s refreshing, even if it isn’t the easy to digest answer readers and viewers want instantly. Bryant’s telling us that building playoff teams takes time, because building trust does, too. 6. “That’s kind of like, where are your balls at?”
No, Kobe wasn’t talking about a teammate, as some/most of you thought when you saw the headline. Instead, it was in relation to Kobe’s abhorrence of flopping. Last season, the NBA, in conjunction with ESPN’s True Hoop site, made flopping an issue, and this past offseason fines were put in place for any instance of flopping found during a postgame review. But last May, ESPN LA’s McMenamin was writing about something else Kobe hates to do: take a charge. Kobe said he’s only taken one charge in his career and it was probably a mistake. He saw what taking charges did to the backs of Larry Bird and Scottie Pippen, and he saw that Magic and MJ didn’t take many charges, and stayed largely healthy throughout their Hall of Fame careers. But when McMenamin brought up flopping, Kobe made sure he knew the difference between taking a charge and flopping: “There’s a difference [between taking a charge and flopping]. We all know what flopping is when we see it. The stuff that you see is where guys aren’t really getting hit at all and are just flailing around like a fish out of water. That’s kind of like, where are your balls at?” So Kobe hates to take charges and almost never does because of the risk of injury, but a feigned injury or foul is a lack of testicular fortitude. How can you not find Kobe Bryant delightful, especially as he’s become like a cantankerous uncle making inappropriate comments while everyone else in the family just says “Oh Kobe.” But Kobe’s comments haven’t always provoked the slightly bemused reaction his thoughts on flopping did. No, when he went after former teammate Smush Parker, it seemed a little strange, since Parker hadn’t played with Bryant since the 2006-07 season. 5. “They can all kiss my ass as I’m sure he feels the same way. If you score 138 points, you kind of have a license to tell people to f— off.”
After Jack Taylor dropped 138 points for tiny, Grinnell College in a Division III basketball game, both Kevin Ding for the Orange County Register and Dave McMenamin for ESPN Los Angeles reported Bryant’s thoughts about Taylor’s performance. Kobe gave them what they wanted: a no holds bar paean to Taylor’s cold blooded scoring prowess. Kobe’s full reaction to Taylor’s achievement was – as is typical this season – entertaining. As is what he thinks the reaction would have been if he had scored 138 points in an NBA game (remember, he scored 81).
Reporter: Kobe, a college kid scored 138 points tonight and took over 100 shots …
Bryant: Wow … No kidding? Where?
Reporter: Grinnell College in Iowa.
Bryant: Really? Wow. That’s impressive. That’s crazy. I don’t care what level you’re at. Scoring 138 points is pretty insane. How many 3s did he shoot?
Bryant: Holy shit. How many points did they score as a team?
Reporter: No other starter had double figures.
Bryant: That’s incredible. Reporter: Dude on the other team scored 71 points and lost.
Bryant: That’s amazing. He must have been wearing the Mambas, man. Only Mambas have no conscience to shoot the ball like that.
Reporter: If you did that, would people be celebrating you?
Bryant: Would people be celebrating me if I scored 138 points? You know how it is, some people would, some people wouldn’t. They can all kiss my a– as I’m sure he feels the same way. If you score 138 points, you kind of have a license to tell people to f— off.
And really, what did we expect? Kobe is all about scoring, as he noted in the quote before, and when a guy goes off like that – no matter the level – he’s going to win the admiration of Kobe Bryant. But Kobe has been less effusive with his own teammates, whether former teammates he bizarrely has an axe to grind with, or current teammates he’s imploring to give him more.
4. “I’m like Neo out this m—– f—–“
We’ve learned, in Bryant’s inaugural season on Twitter, that he’s a bit of a cinephile. Hard to not be being rich and famous in Los Angeles, we suppose. For example just in the last week he’s revealed he loves quoting “Wedding Crashers” (we can’t blame him) and also drew inspiration from several Best Picture nominees from this year’s Academy Awards. To wit:
“Rule number 76. No excuses. Play like a champion” Vince Vaughn. Wedding Crashers. â€” Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) March 6, 2013
MT @paulpabst Kobe on DJ’s dunk: “That was like the scene in Final Destination when the guy steps off the curb and the bus hits him.”
â€” Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 12, 2013
Before those missives, however, Bryant sat at his locker after dishing out 11 dimes on Jan. 29 (giving him 39 in three games) and discussed with ESPN LA’s Dave McMenamin what it was like to turn the tables on everyone. Kobe, in year 17, go from a scorer to a passer? And then he dropped a line out of nowhere referencing the hottest movie of 1999, The Matrix.
“I’m like Neo out this m—– f—–“
Suddenly we were left wondering so many things. Why this movie? Can he bend time (game clocks) and opponents’ wills like Neo could avoid bullets? Is it a coincidence we never see Neo and Laurence Fishburne in the same room?
3. “Fear? Fear for what? Only thing I fear is bees. … I don’t f— with bees, man. Other than that, I’m not afraid of nothing.”
On March 8, Bryant produced one of the more two-faced games of his career. On one hand he had nine turnovers. On the other, he had 41 points, 12 assists and hit three giant three-pointers to lead the Lakers in a come-from-behind win against the Raptors. On one from above the arc’s break, he lost his dribble while simultaneously having Toronto’s Alan Anderson in his shorts but still drilled a line-drive three. Nothing could faze the guy once he hit the fourth quarter. After the game when reporters asked him about his role in almost single-handedly bringing the Lakers back in the final two minutes, he revealed what many players feel: Why would I be scared on the court? Kobe doesn’t fear any man. But … he doesn’t f— with bees. He held court in a media scrum afterward and his quotes about existentialist fear and bees were transmitted by ESPN’s McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne.
It seems to be the standard procedure for Bryant this season, arguably his most transparent and open in his career â€” and not just because of his Twitter handle. Maybe it’s because he’s more introspective or possibly he’s like an older person who says whatever is on his mind knowing there’s not much time left in his career. What the reason, he’s pulled back the onion skin bit by bit, and shown us a real person underneath, one who’s scared of bees. But then, just as soon as he shows a bit of vulnerability, he flashes his Kobe venom-face and reminds everyone that he fears no man.
2. “[Smush Parker is] the worst. He shouldn’t have been in the NBA but we were too cheap to pay for a point guard. So we let him walk on.”
When Bryant spoke with the Orange County Register‘s Kevin Ding back in the offseason, he reminisced about his seemingly lost 2005-06 season where he played with unheralded role players like Smush Parker, Chris Mihm and former No. 1 pick, Kwame Brown. Kobe was pretty cavalier in throwing them under the bus, which we should all be used to by now:
“‘I almost won an MVP with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown on my team. I was shooting 45 times a game. What was I supposed to do? Pass it to Chris Mihm or Kwame Brown.’
Bryant continued, taking aim at his favorite whipping boy, Parker, calling him ‘the worst. He shouldn’t have been in the NBA but we were too cheap to pay for a point guard. So we let him walk on.'”
This could have been easily forgotten, but one player (Parker) didn’t take the Kobe diss lying down. He aired his grievances on the “Hard 2 Guard” radio show, and said “playing with Kobe Bryant was an overrated experience,” before recounting how hard it is to play with someone as egomaniacal as Kobe. Kobe laughed off Smush’s reply, but then came with the number one quote on our list, and what has to be one of the biggest Facebook posts of all time.
1. “Leadership is responsibility. There comes a point when one must make a decision. Are YOU willing to do what it takes to push the right buttons to elevate those around you? If the answer is YES, are you willing to push the right buttons even if it means being perceived as the villain? Here’s where the true responsibility of being a leader lies. Sometimes you must prioritize the success of the team ahead of how your own image is perceived. The ability to elevate those around you is more than simply sharing the ball or making teammates feel a certain level of comfort. It’s pushing them to find their inner beast, even if they end up resenting you for it at the time. I’d rather be perceived as a winner than a good teammate. I wish they both went hand in hand all the time but that’s just not reality. I have nothing in common with lazy people who blame others for their lack of success. Great things come from hard work and perseverance. No excuses. This is my way. It might not be right for YOU but all I can do is share my thoughts. It’s on YOU to figure out which leadership style suits you best. Will check back in with you soon.. [sic] Till then Mamba out.”
That’s Kobe’s immortal Facebook post. It has garnered 91,647 likes and 6,007 comments as of this writing. It’s also a pretty good explanation for why Kobe sometimes goes after his teammates. Remember, he posted this to Facebook after Smush Parker rehashed his brief time with the Lakers on the radio and called Kobe an awful teammate. Kobe Bryant doesn’t particularly care what we, as fans, think. He doesn’t care what former teammates, or even current teammates think. He only cares about winning, so he says, and part of winning is being a leader. Just what kind of leader Kobe Bryant must be is pretty evident by this Facebook post. He’ll do anything he can to spur you on to greatness. If you can’t handle his verbal slings and arrows, he’ll probably find a way to get rid of you. Barring that, you just got to suck it up and play.
Love him or hate him, and there are plenty of people on both sides of that aisle, Kobe Bryant is still the most polarizing player in the NBA, especially this season, where the Lakers were supposed to be on the top teams in the West, but instead they’re floundering and playing sub-.500 basketball. So far, Kobe has resisted the urge to go after the big fella, Dwight Howard, but if Howard’s back fails to improve and the Lakers continue to set new records for mediocrity, this list of Kobe quotes will grow and Dwight might find himself on the receiving end. He’d take small comfort in the knowledge that he isn’t the only one.
Bonus Quote about Alex Rodriguez: “He forgets that he’s one of the best ever to play. I don’t.”
It appears that Kobe’s ability to deliver a back-handed compliment extends beyond the basketball floor and onto the baseball diamond. We’re not sure about the current friendship between Kobe and A-Rod, but you can be sure it’s just like most of Kobe’s relationships: abundantly glowing, until it’s not.
What’s your favorite quote of all time from KB?
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