Kobe Bryant has never apologized for being a sometimes difficult superstar, and the five-time NBA champion says he'd rather be remembered as a winner than as a good teammate.
Bryant made the statement in a Facebook post and explained his feelings to ESPNLA this week.
"When you win, you share it. Everybody is happy," Bryant said, then explained why being a good teammate by itself doesn't cut it for him.
"You want to have a really close team, you guys are all friends, you guys have a good time, you guys enjoy each other’s company. You get to the Finals, you lose. This happens all the time. You never get to win the championship. Now, you fast forward 20 years from now and you guys are sitting back at whatever get-together function that you’re having and you guys finally get a chance to reconnect because when you guys retire, you all go separate ways even though you guys were all buddies when you played, and you got to sit around telling old stories about how you were this close. ‘Oh, we were this close. Oh, we were this close. But, we had a great time, though!’
"And when you fast forward years from now and it’s me, Lamar (Odom), (Trevor) Ariza and all these guys and we pushed each other. We had some really contentious moments, but that got us to be champions and we’re close because of everything that we went through. So, you go 20 years from now, we’re sitting back, laughing, enjoying each other’s company because we really love each other. There’s a brotherhood that’s been formed there, and we won. I would rather have that, than that other one."
Bryant said the Lakers "had one of those happy-go-lucky teams" when they lost to the Celtics in the Finals in 2008.
"We got to the Finals and we ran into a buzz saw. So, the next season and every season after that, we really challenged each other," he said. "We didn’t hold anything back. If I didn’t like what you were doing, I’d tell you. And vice versa. And there would be moments where we didn’t like each other very much, but we understood that we were doing this for a common goal and when you have that, I think you have more respect and more admiration for the person sitting across from you."
Bryant said the loss to Boston was key to him "figuring out how I want to lead."
"It was a different role for me. I had to put on a different hat after the me-and-Shaq era. You kind of had to figure out the balance," he said. "Me kind of being a taskmaster when Shaq was here and him being the easy-going guy, in 2008 I went too far on the opposite end of the spectrum. We wound up having a team that wasn’t emotionally tough enough or contentious enough to take down these Celtics."
So is he becoming more candid in his answers now that he's older?
"These are answers that I have in my head most of the time throughout my career, I just don’t say them," he said. "So like I’ll be getting interviewed, and I’ll laugh or smirk to myself as I’m thinking of these responses, now I just have the cojones to say them. It’s like you get to that point where you’re close to the rocking chair and you just really don’t care anymore. I’m one of those old guys sitting on the porch just letting it rip."
For more of Bryant's comments, watch the interview below: