As Kobe Bryant’s career winds to a close, he’s become increasingly open and frank with the media. His post-game interviews have been some of the highlights of what has become a lost season for the Lakers, and he’s compared the team to the Titanic and toilet paper.
Just before suffering a shoulder injury that would end his season, Bryant met with GQ’s Chuck Klosterman and opened up on his relationships with former coach Phil Jackson and Shaquille O’Neal. Bryant said he was “infuriated” when Jackson would call him out in the media after he had signed a contract extension with the Lakers in 1999.
“Yeah. I was like, ‘[expletive Jackson]. I’m out here busting my [expletive]. I’m killing myself.’ And it became insulting. Because I chose to extend my deal with the Lakers to play with Shaquille O’ Neal and win championships. I knew what I could have done individually. I could have gone to another team and averaged 35 points a game. I could have gone anywhere and destroyed people. I gave that up to win championships. So it was infuriating to hear people say I was selfish.”
Kobe’s string of unfortunate injuries also seems to have given him a new perspective on O’Neal. Bryant has previously called out Shaq for being “lazy” during the end of his time with the Lakers, but now admits that his body was simply breaking down.
“He had years where he was lazy. But during those three championships we won? To say he was a beast would be an understatement. To say I didn’t learn things from him that I still use to this day would be a disservice. To be fair, I think what happened is that, as you get older, your body starts breaking down, and you have to really love the process in order to get through that.”