Playing 20 questions with Kobe Bryant, who wants to buy helicopter
By Dan Le Batard
MIAMI - Twenty questions with Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant:
Q: What's the greatest perk involved with being Kobe Bryant?
A: Access. To people. To things. If I want to buy something, it just takes a couple of calls and I get a great deal. I'm looking into buying a helicopter, for example. It's going to eliminate traffic. It'll take me only 15 minutes to get to games.
Q: What is your greatest weakness?
A: Caramel apples with nuts. I live 15 minutes from Disney Land, and I'll go over there just to get them. I can destroy five of those things in a couple of minutes.
Q: Something you believe in that very few people do?
A: Extraterrestrial activities. I believe in UFOs. I'm not a UFO nut, but I believe in life on other planets.
Q: Your greatest basketball-related regret?
A: Not being able to work out the relationship with Shaquille O'Neal. We accomplished so much together. It's a shame that it ended on a sour note. There was a lot that played into that situation, but if I had to do it over again, I'd communicate better. I'd initiate more of the conversation.
Q: Outside of family, three people who put you in your place?
A: Phil Jackson. That's it. In my entrepreneurial endeavors, I'm the boss. I delegate, provide a compass and direction and freedom. But I make the decisions.
Q: Most hurtful thing you've ever read about yourself?
A: I try not to read clippings, but people saying I'm selfish is always bothersome. I'm far from that. I do what's necessary. I facilitate. There are going to be nights I've got to carry the load if people are struggling, but I'm not selfish.
Q: Greatest pet peeve?
A: Dog poop. Hate it. You don't understand. We have two dogs. I won't go into a room if they've pooped in it. Someone has to clean that up. Something bad must have happened to me as a child with dog poop.
Q: Three traits you most admire in others?
A: Determination. Never making any excuses. And people loving what they do.
Q: During the time before the rape trail, how would you describe the scrutiny and pain of your darkest time?
A: I'm extremely religious. Everybody has a cross to bear, and I had to pick mine up and carry it. But I try to keep things in perspective. This was not a Katrina-victim cross. I didn't lose a loved one or a child. That's what faith will do. You reach bottom, and you can't carry the cross anymore, God carries it for you. My faith was OK before that, but that time enlightened me to His strength. There's enlightenment at the bottom.
Q: You do a lot of charity work. What's the most moved you've ever been during one of those experiences?
A: Whoa. Working with Make-A-Wish. This summer in Vegas, meeting a terminally ill kid. Carlos. We kicked it for five hours before he passed away. He was excited, but he was hurting so much it was hard for him to show it. It really, really touched me. You have to keep it together, though. You can't cry. They want a good time. You can't be sad, depressed in front of them. They want you as yourself. Meeting you is their dream, a dying wish, so you have to keep it together and remember the size of that responsibility.
Q: Give me an off-court example of how unreasonably competitive you are.
A: Being competitive when playing my 3-year-old daughter in Candyland? My daughter has gotten really mad playing me at Concentration. We were playing that memory game, and I knew where the winning cards were, and she didn't. I was a little tempted to turn them over. But my wife was watching, and she said I better not. So I conceded.
Q: You have the reputation of being distant and aloof with teammates. Give me an example that validates that and one that refutes that.
A: I'm just not aloof, period. That's just a misconception. The guys on the team are like little brothers to me. We eat together. Birthday bash for my kid at my house with all the kids. I play cards with them, video games. People just don't know me, but I'm trying to change that. I haven't had an opportunity to let people know me because I've been so, so focused on my game, but I don't want misconceptions about me when my career is over.
Q: Are you better than Dwyane Wade?
A: That's an unfair question. That's not for me to say. We're so different. We do different things. I won't play the game of `who is better?' I don't get into that at all.
Q: Favorite athlete to watch, any sport?
A: ``Love LaDainian Tomlinson. Our sport: Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwyane. I'm a big soccer guy - Ronaldhino.''
Q: Three traits most responsible for your greatness?
A: Passion. I have that beyond belief. This isn't work to me. It's a passion, an obsession. Commitment. And great mentors. A lot of guys have long arms, quick feet, leaping ability. I'm not the fastest. Every advantage I have is because of preparation.
Q: Give the layman an example of what kind of ridiculous shape you are in. The most extreme example of your fitness?
A: I've got really big lungs. I did a stress test. Twenty minutes on a treadmill on incline at the highest level. I wasn't even breathing hard at all, no problem. The doctors said afterward that I must have kept myself in great shape over the summer, but I didn't run once over the summer because of my knee. I get up at 4:30 in the morning for workouts, though. I work out several times a day. On hard days, I'll work out for eight hours. I hurt my ankle, the therapist is there until 2 in the morning.
Q: What is your wardrobe worth?
A: Whistles I have a variety of garments, a lot of custom-made stuff by Gucci. My wife is my stylist. You go into my closet, it's probably over $800,000.
Q: Four words or phrases you'd use to describe yourself to a stranger?
A: Funny, with a dry humor. Family. Hardworking. Misunderstood.
Q: Most awestruck you've ever been meeting someone?
A: Magic Johnson, by far. I was 17, and he walked into the gym. I couldn't speak. Didn't know whether to call him Earvin or Mr. Johnson or Magic.
Q: Toughest player for you to guard?
A: A lot of them. So many great ones. Carmelo. Gilbert Arenas. Michael Redd. Anyone can light you up.