kobe bryant

Ball in his hands, season on the line, and failure promised Kobe Bryant a summer of scorn. For everything that comes with the responsibility of greatness, Bryant can live with the cutting criticism, the besmirching of his legacy, the volume rising on those determined to diminish him in the context of his contemporaries. In losing, he could live with it all – except allowing that barrage to barricade him behind a wall of hesitancy and reluctance.

“I don’t give a [expletive] what you say,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports late Friday. “If I go out there and miss game winners, and people say, ‘Kobe choked, or Kobe is seven for whatever in pressure situations.’ Well, [expletive] you.

“Because I don’t play for your [expletive] approval. I play for my own love and enjoyment of the game. And to win. That’s what I play for. Most of the time, when guys feel the pressure, they’re worried about what people might say about them. I don’t have that fear, and it enables me to forget bad plays and to take shots and play my game.”

Deep down, Bryant does care, because the ingesting of the feeding frenzy that comes with his struggles doesn’t so much pollute his air, as it does become oxygen tanks of rage on his back. Eighteen trips to the free-throw line on Friday, and 18 times the ball dropped into the basket. Eight trips to the free throw line in the fourth quarter borne out of a brilliant footwork, an unending array of fakes and, yes, the generosity of a referee’s whistle.

“In the pressure situations, you’ve always got to want to go to the line,” Bryant told Y! Sports. “You can try to avoid contact, because you don’t want to go to the free-throw line in those pressure situations. Me, I enjoy it.”

– Reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports