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NBA: The indefatigable Kobe Bryant talks bouncing back from injury and a sixth title

August 12, 2013 8:43pm

Kobe Bryant talked about coming back from his injury early and proving his doubters wrong. Roehl Niño Bautista / GMA News

Kobe Bryant is many things, but being a quitter isn’t one of them.

Bryant expects himself to be ready for battle come the 2013-2014 NBA season, one of the many thoughts he shared about his 17-year career, and his team, the Los Angeles Lakers, during his publicity tour as Lenovo’s new brand endorser, Monday at Resorts World Manila.

[Related: Scenes from Kobe's latest trip to Manila]

“My [achilles] tendon feels really, really good. I feel strong,” said Bryant, grinning as he thanked his training and medical staff for his speedy recovery.

Last year’s Lakers went through a roller-coaster season, dancing in and out of playoff contention. The Lakers made a late bid and stumbled into the postseason as the seventh seed in the West, but not before Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon in mid-April. The Lakers were then swept out of the postseason by the eventual runners-up, the San Antonio Spurs.

“As soon as it happened, I knew what it was, and I knew I was done [for the season],” he shared. “Then I said, ‘I gotta make these free throws.’ We've been fighting all year to get to the playoffs and these are big couple of points that we need, so it's my responsibility to knock 'em down and get my butt off the court.”

The initial diagnosis for Bryant’s injury was 9-12 months of recovery and rehabilitation. And though even many experts said he would never fully recover, with some even saying it was time for him to retire, reports on Bryant’s progress indicate that he might already be cleared for the start of the NBA season in late October.

As the competitor he is, Bryant is relishing the chance to prove doubters and haters wrong.

     Soundbites from Bryant
On playing against Gilas Pilipinas in an exhibition game in 2011 - The majority of them are versatile. They can post the ball, put the ball in the ball on the floor, get penetration and shoot.

On being a leader on his team - Most of the time, leaders have to make unpopular decisions. I think a lot of leaders fail because they don't have the bravery to touch that nerve or to strike that cord. And for me throughout my years, I don't have that kind of fear. But at the end of the day, you want to get results. That's the common goal, to continue to push.

As I've gotten older I've been able to better understand how to communicate to individuals, but as a leader it's your responsibility to get your team to your ultimate goal.

All-time first five - Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell

Favorite musical album - Reasonable Doubt (1996) by Jay-Z
“I think it's interesting because if to me, if somebody's doubting that I can come back from this injury, that means if they had the same injury and my same situation, they'd quit, they wouldn't be able to come back from it. When I hear that, I see signs of weakness,” he said.

“So me coming back and being stronger than I was before, what it says to the doubters is you can accomplish things that you didn't think you can accomplish,” he concluded. And Bryant expects nothing less than the highest level of success for him and his team.

“I would say getting a sixth championship is [my] number one [priority], then I'd say a sixth championship is number two, and then a sixth championship is number three,” Bryant said, most likely meaning every word.

On that note, Bryant said that he hopes the Lakers can stay healthy for the greater part of the season. During the 2012-13 season, point guard Steve Nash sat out three months due to a fractured shin, while center Dwight Howard, who has since signed with the Houston Rockets, was bothered by chronic issues stemming from his back surgery in the 2012 offseason. Big man Pau Gasol also missed time due to an assortment of ailments.

“The big hindrance for us last year was health,” he said. “We put some players that play very well together, whose style fits very well together, hopefully it's a chance to get more wins.”

The Lakers lost veteran Metta World Peace and the aforementioned Howard in the offseason, filling in the void with the likes of Chris Kaman, Wesley Johnson and Nick Young.

“It's not about the individuals, but how those individuals come together as a team. Continue to work together and have constant communication,” said Bryant. “Teams can always hide whatever weaknesses that individuals have. But if the team doesn't know what your weaknesses are because you don't communicate, then they have no way of supporting you.”

Entering his 17th NBA year, Bryant said his immediate goal is to “put this team together” and make them contenders once more. But in the bigger picture, despite the numerous accolades, wants to be remembered for the effort he put into his training.

Kobe Bryant engages with a young fan bearing his name, Kobe Bryant Pe. Roehl Niño Bautista / GMA News
“[I want] a legacy of someone who maximized his potential,” he said. Bryant also noted that his curiosity drives him to find ways to constantly improve as one of the world’s elite players.

“I don't look at it as, 'This is what I've accomplished.' I look at it as, 'How can I be better? How can I improve the game of basketball? How can I improve on defense?' When you have that constant curiosity, you find yourself getting better as time goes by,” he said.

“Go after it, whatever your dream is, go after it,” he encouraged his fans. “Then the steps that come after that, that's the hard part. Pay attention to the details, it's constant work, it's constant grind. There's a lot of times when your friends are gonna be partying, hanging out, whatever, and you have to make a choice on what's more important to you. Is it more important to hang out and do all of these things? Or is it more important to focus on getting to your goal.

“I'd much rather and deal with the pain when there's only my staff and a few other people watching. I'd rather deal with that pain then than have 20,000, or millions of people watching, as opposed to not dealing with it and be on TV with everybody watching and being like this,” said Bryant, who then clutched his knees and pretended to pant.

As for Bryant, what’s left once he’s captured his sixth ring, or after his body won’t let him?

“I'd like to skydive. When it's time to hang 'em up, then I'll try to skydive.” - AMD, GMA News
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