First things first, there's the Andrew Bynum pre-qualifier to deal with.
In January 2006 I was assigned to write a story on the NBA scoring race, which at the time was being contested between Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson, whose teams, the Lakers and the 76ers, were meeting on a Friday night in Los Angeles. Collecting information for that story provided much insight into the killer instinct that has always driven Bryant ... not to mention somewhat of a journalistic comeuppance.
LOS ANGELES -- By the look of the postgame press conference, it was tough to tell that this was all about maturity for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In the summer of 2010, Scott Brooks issued Kevin Durant a challenge: Defend. You're a great scorer, Brooks told Durant, but to be a great player you have to play both ways. Like Michael. Like LeBron. Like Kobe. "I said Kevin, if you want to be an elite player in this league, you can't do it on one end," Brooks told SI.com. "You are going to be known as one of the best scorers in the game. If you want to be known as something more than that, you have to play both ends."
This story appears in the May 14, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated. Buy the digital version of the magazine here.
LOS ANGELES -- At 33, Kobe Bryant has already logged more minutes than Michael Jordan, played in more seasons than Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. His 6-foot-6 frame, slender compared to the NBA's modern stars, has absorbed injury-inducing blows to virtually every relevant part. He cracks jokes about his dwindling vertical leap. But on some nights, when the legs are fresh and the back is loose, when there is spring in the knees and juice in the joints, he can appear utterly ageless.
You have to give it to Mike Brown.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant has decided to sit out the Lakers' regular-season finale against the Kings on Thursday, thereby conceding the NBA scoring title to Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant.
LOS ANGELES -- The week that was provided the perfect setup for a Kobe Bryant special, one of those vintage performances that serve as a guilty pleasure for anyone who knows how this game needs to be played.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The slap could be heard from the floor high up into the seats. Kobe Bryant spun around to the baseline and Dwyane Wade slammed him hard from behind across the shoulders and the nose. It was like a family argument that had spilled over unpredictably and irretrievably.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Kobe Bryant has surpassed Michael Jordan as the NBA All-Star game's greatest scorer.
DALLAS -- Four days after Kobe Bryant defended Pau Gasol, three days after Bryant and Derek Fisher called a players-only meeting and 30 minutes after his Lakers had earned a second impressive win in a row, coach Mike Brown was talking about the furious evolution of his troubled team.
Kobe Bryant's connection with Pau Gasol stretches all the way to Pluto. It started before they were even teammates, in May 2007, when the Lakers lost in the first round of the playoffs to Phoenix. Bryant responded with his notorious multi-platform tirade, begging the Lakers to trade him anywhere, even the farthest non-planet from the sun.
LOS ANGELES -- Who knew Kobe Bryant -- he of the menacing looks, icy veins and killer instinct -- was such a softy?
LOS ANGELES -- No matter how many times Mitch Kupchak sees it, he still gets mesmerized by the dazzling play of Kobe Bryant.
BOSTON -- When Kobe Bryant came into the Celtics gym, it was like Jack Nicholson walking into that Colorado resort bar in "The Shining." It was as if the old days had been brought back to life and the modern day concerns had receded, as if the young legs of Miami and Chicago and Oklahoma City were no longer in the picture.
The wife of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant filed for divorce Friday, eight years after she famously stuck by him after he admitted having sex with a woman at a Colorado hotel, a court spokeswoman said.
LOS ANGELES -- The moment when Mike Brown realized he had to coach the Lakers came shortly after they were swept by Dallas in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals, a spectacular 36-point flameout that saw Phil Jackson pop Pau Gasol in the chest, Andrew Bynum put J.J. Barea on the floor, and then tear off his jersey to protest his ejection. Brown, who detailed in a notepad how the Lakers were eviscerated by the Mavericks' pick-and-roll, wanted to see what Kobe Bryant would say in his exit interview. Bryant was asked what he would take away from the season, and as he rested his chin in his palm, said: "It was a wasted year of my life." Brown felt an onrush of goose bumps. "You know right there what that dude is made of," he said.
ATLANTA (SI.com) -- Kobe Bryant doesn't appear to be headed to Turkey anytime soon.
There will be labor-related meetings in the near future.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- There is a recent blueprint here, even if it's a tad incomplete.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- By the time Kobe Bryant was done with his state of the union address at the Lakers' practice facility, he had spoken for nearly 24 minutes.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Oh, to be a fly on the inner wall of Kobe Bryant's cranium...
LOS ANGELES -- Upon further examination, it's quite obvious why Kobe Bryant didn't want his much talked-about left ankle to be examined following the Lakers' Game 4 failure.
After being accused of sexual assault in 2003, Kobe Bryant now seems to be in a good place. CNN's Patrick Snell reports.
LOS ANGELES -- No need for everyone to like Kobe Bryant, it's too late for that. But it's only fair to appreciate him.
Three-and-a-half years elapsed from the day Shaquille O'Neal left Los Angeles to the day Pau Gasol arrived, a dark interlude in the city's basketball history. The Lakers still had Kobe Bryant, of course, but they surrounded him with Smush Parker, Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown. They seemed to be conducting an experiment, with Bryant as guinea pig, to determine whether a player could actually succeed one-on-five.
LOS ANGELES -- On June 26, 2003, Kobe Bryant told then-ESPN reporter Jim Gray that he would opt out of his contract with the Lakers after the following season and become a free agent. That night, LeBron James was selected by the Cavaliers with the first pick in the NBA draft. To Lakers coach Phil Jackson, the events were not coincidental. For all that has changed since 2003 -- Bryant did opt out, but re-signed with the Lakers; James played seven seasons with the Cavs, but after his own heart-to-heart with Gray, bolted for Miami -- Jackson still views the Bryant/James dynamic through the prism of their first PR battle.
In March, a congressional panel passed a resolution declaring the Ottoman-era killing of Armenians "genocide".
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant's two-year endorsement deal with Turkish Airlines has enraged some Armenian Americans who are threatening to boycott the Los Angeles Lakers star.
Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant talks to CNN's Pedro Pinto about rivals Miami Heat ahead of the new NBA season.
LOS ANGELES -- The easiest way to engender Kobe Bryant's affection is with a throat slash, a clothesline, or a ball in the face. Throw a few elbows in his ribs for good measure, don't forget to mention in the post-game press conference that he is coddled by referees, and chances are you will have a guaranteed contract with the Lakers come summer. Such is the example set by Ron Artest, Raja Bell and most recently Matt Barnes, who was introduced by the Lakers on Tuesday, less than five months after he pretended to throw a chest pass off Bryant's nose.
NBA star Kobe Bryant sits down with CNN's Pedro Pinto to talk about Italian football, the World Cup and basketball.
• DeMarcus Cousins. That a potentially dominant 6-foot-11, 292-pound center who averaged 15.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 23.5 minutes last season -- gigantic production in short minutes while sharing the ball with four fellow first-rounders at Kentucky -- would go No. 5 in the draft is proof of how the NBA has veered away from traditional big men.
Kobe Bryant wanted to hear the Boston accent. He wanted to hear the wisdom of the street, he wanted to hear the wise-ass comments. He wanted to hear what "Sweetchuck" had to say.
LOS ANGELES -- The love you take is equal to the love you make, and that is not a saying ever related to Kobe Bryant. He has struggled through the latter half of his life to make his own way, as a wingman refusing to attend college, as a scorer stubbornly dueling with Shaquille O'Neal for control of the ball, as a star who didn't know how to be liked. Never did he imagine his savior would be Ron Artest.
BOSTON -- One more. Those were the words Paul Pierce repeated over and over, as he paced the Boston sideline in the final seconds of the Celtics' Game 5 victory. Indeed, Boston finds itself one win away from an improbable NBA championship after outlasting the Lakers 92-86 on Sunday.
BOSTON -- It's a familiar look, one easily identifiable from Oklahoma City to Salt Lake City, from Phoenix to Boston. The jaw juts out, the nostrils start to flare and the eyes practically glow from the upward flowing fuel of anger and excitement. It's Kobe, doin' work.
The NBA Finals has greater meaning whenever the Celtics and Lakers meet. Here are five potential outcomes we'll be discussing in a couple of weeks.
BOSTON -- Kobe Bryant had a lot on his mind. The questions seemed to interrupt his larger thoughts.
The most important play Kobe Bryant made in Game 1 was in all likelihood a deceptively simple one. It was not one of his myriad of contorted drives, or that improbable fadeaway from the left wing over two defenders, or even the flat-footed block at the rim on Tony Allen (though that was surely the most impressive).
On Tuesday, I asked a leading NBA scout to break down the Finals. Here is his analysis.
LOS ANGELES -- The difference between then and now is conveyed by Kobe Bryant. Back then, in the 2008 Finals, he was still experimenting with his captaincy, following his demand for a trade out of Los Angeles the preceding summer. How was he supposed to preside over so many teammates who had so much to learn? Act too much the hard man and he might lose them, drum the confidence and hope right out of them.
In the moments after the Lakers beat the Suns to advance to the NBA Finals, Kobe Bryant was asked several questions about the Boston Celtics' and extra motivation. He was asked about playing the Celtics in the wake of the beating the Lakers took in Boston in 2008.
PHOENIX -- In all probability, Kobe Bryant's collection of MVP trophies will remain at one. An award that requires otherworldly effort throughout an 82-game season is a young man's prize, one that the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo will fight for over the next decade. No, Bryant's 31-year old body won't allow him to sustain that kind of dominance. Nor should it. Bryant's body, ravaged by sprained ankles and broken fingers, is built for the playoffs, where the game's most cold-blooded closer remains utterly unmatched.
Where and when the Great Free Agent Summer Summit takes place no one is certain at the moment. Ambassador Dwyane Wade has called it, and, presumably, fellow diplomats LeBron James, Joe Johnson and Chris Bosh (the attendance of the Toronto Raptors forward would make this a truly international meeting) will be there, too. We can only hope that a photographer is present to capture the moment, as one was at Yalta, where Roosevelt, Stalin and a fur-hatted Churchill famously met to figure out what the post-World War II world should look like, much as the future geography of the NBA will be sussed out this summer.
• Kobe Bryant is No. 1. LeBron James was undoubtedly the regular-season MVP, and his talent is peerless. But when it comes to getting things done when all is otherwise lost, no one is better than Bryant. After reportedly having more than an ounce of fluid drained from his swollen right knee in the opening round of the playoffs, Bryant has averaged 32.5 points in his last 10 playoff games and has scored 295 points in nine games while shooting 52.4 percent. He has created 43 assists over the last four games.
PHOENIX -- There was a moment last night, late in the second quarter as the Phoenix Suns reserves were taking turns seeing who could hit the most uncontested three-pointers, where it appeared to dawn upon the thousands of garishly clad folks around me at US Airways Arena: We might just win this thing. And not just the game at hand, but perhaps even this series. After all, the Suns' gimmicky zone was looking less gimmicky and more permanent by the minute, the Lakers big men were befuddled and Channing Frye's jump shot -- apparently sequestered at the border this past week -- finally cleared immigration. But the most promising sign in Phoenix's 115-106 win -- or ominous one, if you're a Lakers fan -- was the play of Kobe Bryant.
LOS ANGELES -- For most of this season, the MVP chants at Staples Center sounded weary and contrived, remnants of a bygone era kept on display for nostalgia's sake. The chants would start after every trip to the free-throw line but quickly wane and die, as if the locals were repeating those three letters out of habit and not because they really believed what they were saying. Sure, Kobe Bryant was still one of the best couple of players in the game, but even in Los Angeles everybody knew that the MVP resided in Cleveland.
A potential game-ending tip-in by Wesley Matthews bounced out of the hoop, sealing Utah's 111-110 loss to the Lakers in Game 3 of the Western semifinals Saturday night. Now down 3-0, the Jazz face the kind of comeback no team has ever accomplished in the NBA. And with the Lakers coming off a game in which Kobe Bryant got more help from outside than inside for a change, the Jazz aren't likely to be the first.
The most fascinating theater of these NBA playoffs is a one-on-one duel between two players who haven't even shared a court. They are at opposite ends of the legend career arc: Kobe Bryant, 31 years old, still clinging to his throne; LeBron James, just 25, trying to ascend to his. They are on opposite ends of the country, both playing hurt, both shaping their legacy, one painful and extraordinary minute at a time.
The Lakers are clearly much bigger. For now, they are much better. And after two games, they hold a dominating lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series, defeating the Jazz for the 16th consecutive time at the Staples Center with a 111-103 decision Tuesday.
The Los Angeles Lakers continue to delicately walk a tightrope. They also continue to remain upright. Despite getting a scare from the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of their best-of-7 Western Conference semifinal series, the Lakers walked out of Staples Center with a hard-fought 104-99 victory Sunday afternoon for a number of different reasons.
It was Pau Gasol, not Kobe Bryant, who sent the Los Angeles Lakers to the second round of the playoffs. Gasol snuck inside in the final second and put back Bryant's missed jumper to give the Lakers a 95-94 victory over the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night, concluding what turned out to be a scintillating first-round series. The Lakers move on to play the winner of the Utah-Denver series, their second step in what they hope is a return to the NBA Finals.
If one thing is clear after Oklahoma City's last two wins over the defending champion Lakers it's that the Thunder are the team of the future.
LOS ANGELES -- After 24 hours of soul searching and a lengthy practice and film session that ran an hour later than expected, the Lakers have identified the problem that developed last week in Oklahoma City: it's that they have a few problems.
Over the years we've seen many qualities in Kobe Bryant -- immaturity, greatness, hubris, intelligence and killer instinct, to name but a few. But not until recently have we seen vulnerability.
Our annual review of money and how it has been spent on players finds a total of $2,108,698,855 obligated to 502 players -- some to contracts of six years, others to contracts of 10 days -- for an average of $4.2 million per player this season, according to official NBA payroll figures I viewed Monday. This amounts to a reduction of $35.6 million in player salaries since last season.
Though the focus of this summer's free agency is squarely on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, a theory is circulating through NBA circles that involves another MVP candidate.
1. Forty-eight years ago on Tuesday, Wilt Chamberlain set the NBA's single-game scoring mark with 100 points in the Philadelphia Warriors' 169-147 win over the New York Knicks. Where does this rank among the league's greatest records?
DENVER -- The last time George Karl coached the All-Star Game, in New York in 1998, his West team was led by a 19-year-old Kobe Bryant. Karl remembers the Lakers' guard, who, at the time was the youngest player in All-Star history, waving off Utah's Karl Malone during a pick-and-roll so Bryant could take somebody one-on-one.
Is Kobe Bryant the greatest of all Lakers? He now ranks No. 1 on their all-time scoring list after dunking softly with both hands on a third-quarter breakaway Monday in Memphis. Bryant finished the 95-93 loss to the Grizzlies with 44 points for the night and 25,208 points in his 14th season, surpassing the franchise record held by the general manager who acquired him in a draft-night deal, Jerry West.
BOSTON -- These are the moments he lives for, Kobe Bryant. The moments his coach, Phil Jackson, says he relishes. Time winding down, game hanging in the balance, the leather in his hands.
Injuries among so many stars and inconsistent performances by so many contending teams make it difficult to fill out a midseason awards ballot. But here it is anyway: The best of what we've seen so far, with the hope that something better -- and healthier -- is on the way. (The NBA's official awards ballot includes five spots for MVP and three for the other major awards. The media vote on all the awards below except Executive of the Year.)
The winningest modern-day coach could be on his way to an 11th championship, which would put Jackson two titles ahead of Red Auerbach and leave him with a half-dozen more than anyone else who has coached in the NBA.
Now that the Grizzlies have climbed above .500 and Lionel Hollins has been named Western Conference Coach of the Month for December, the bandwagon is rolling for power forward Zach Randolph to be named to the All-Star team.
PLAYER OF THE DECADE: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs The greatest power forward in NBA history, Duncan was the reason San Antonio became the only team to make the playoffs every year of the decade. He was the most valuable team player of his era, an active defender who chased pick-and-rolls out to the three-point line and yet hustled back to protect the rim and control the boards. Offensively, the Spurs played through him as a passer in the post, and his dependable mid-range jumper off the backboard will be part of his highlight reel when he checks into Springfield.
Kobe Bryant was given an "excused absence" from the Lakers' practice this morning after an armed robbery in his Newport Beach neighborhood Tuesday night, reports TMZ.com
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Nov. 30. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer.
How much taller is LeBron James than you?
"A season for the ages," commissioner David Stern said of this NBA year gone by. But I prefer to view it as a recasting of the 1980s: The names have changed, but the dynamics are familiar.
After his jump shot cleared the outstretched hand of Hedo Turkoglu and buried itself in the back of the net, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant turned and pumped his fist. Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy called a timeout. He should have waved a white flag. Though more than eight minutes remained, the smile on Bryant's face as he jogged to the Los Angeles bench explained everything. The Lakers were minutes away from clinching the NBA title, and Bryant had led them there.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Where does Kobe Bryant rate among the modern superstar NBA champions? Here is a good place to start:
Look how I've changed, the young Kobe might have said.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Forgive me, Kobe, but these NBA Finals are all about Shaq. Can Los Angeles ever win a championship without Shaq? That's what the Lakers are trying to prove. Will Orlando ever overcome the departure of Shaq? That's what the Magic are trying to prove.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Judging by their scorching early shooting percentages, it seemed the Lakers and Magic had made some tacit agreement to avoid playing defense in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. So it must have shocked Lakers guard Kobe Bryant when Magic guard Mickael Pietrus reached in and stripped away the basketball with 30 seconds remaining and the fate of the series in the balance.
This story appears in the June 15, 2009, issue of Sports Illustrated. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.
LOS ANGELES -- Pressure is a strange dynamic in this city of tea drinkers. My theory about basketball audiences is that they behave like they're sipping green tea here, while in the northeastern basketball capitals of New York and Philadelphia and Boston the fans like their beer, and then of course in Europe they are fueled by shot after shot of espresso.
LOS ANGELES -- As the Lakers and Magic prepped for Game 1 of the NBA Finals, LeBron James was undergoing five hours of dental surgery to remove a benign growth from his right jaw. Which was less painful than the metaphorical dental surgery he had to endure later.
LOS ANGELES -- This was a portrait of the teenager as an old man.
SI.com NBA writers analyze the storylines and matchups in this year's Finals.
SI.com's Ian Thomsen spoke with an NBA advance scout to break down the Magic-Lakers Finals matchup.
Before the championship is won, the champion must respect and understand his opponent. So what goes through Kobe Bryant's mind as he sizes up Dwight Howard?
On the night of his league's draft lottery, NBA commissioner David Stern engaged in a little ping-pong of his own with reporters. During a lively Q&A session with the press, Stern was asked about the importance of LeBron James making the NBA Finals. "You mean as opposed to Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony or Kobe Bryant?" Stern said. "None. We have nothing but stars. We should be called NBS instead of NBA."
DENVER -- There will be no Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals because Kobe Bryant decided he'd had enough. Enough of Nuggets defenders poking him in the midsection as he elevated from the perimeter and slapping his forehead as he released his shots. Enough of Dahntay Jones, J.R. Smith, Linas Kleiza and Chauncey Billups bumping him like he was a running back hitting the hole and not a shooting guard looking for a seam. Enough of a city and a town that brings back too many bad memories. Enough of all of it. It was time to go home.
There are certain things we're pretty much guaranteed to see Wednesday in Game 5 of the Lakers-Nuggets series. They include:
The NBA playoffs got downright nasty Wednesday night with three incidents that found their way to the desk of league disciplinary czar Stu Jackson. On Thursday afternoon, the league announced Orlando's Rafer Alston and the Lakers' Derek Fisher would each be suspended for a game and that Kobe Bryant would be assessed a flagrant foul. SI.com's NBA experts weigh in on how they feel the league should have handled each of the participants.
Jerry West spent 14 years playing for the Lakers, 19 in the front office, most of his professional life serving as their ambassador. He is the man who graces the NBA logo, who gave the league Showtime, and who shrewdly traded Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 for the draft rights to Kobe Bryant.
It requires a tricky balance of luck and preparation for a truly fantastic documentary to come together, and when that doesn't happen -- a subject clams up or proves uninteresting; perhaps the drama simply never unfolds -- most projects get sent to the scrap heap. Or, in the case of Kobe Doin' Work, they air on ESPN.
For a story about buzzer-beating "last shots" that ran in Sports Illustrated before the 2008 playoffs, I was fortunate enough to have been at a late-season game in Cleveland between the Cavaliers and Hornets. (Remember the Hornets? My pick to win the NBA title this year? Hope you didn't go to Vegas on that tip.)
The final stats didn't tell the whole story. They never do with the Rockets, a team that has shined since losing its leading scorer (Tracy McGrady) and is captained by a player (Shane Battier) who averages around seven points and five rebounds a game.
Five NBA playoff observations from a night that featured a pair of unexpected blowouts and an escape act in Salt Lake City:
We come here today not to praise LeBron James but to bury Kobe Bryant.
As LeBron James and Kobe Bryant battle for the 2008-09 MVP award and their teams compete for the best record in the NBA, here's a look at some of the notable facts and figures that have helped define the careers of the two superstars. (All stats are through April 1 unless otherwise noted.)
PHOENIX -- "If I hear one more guy start a sentence with, 'In this economy ...'" complained a team executive as we drank beer in a dive bar Friday before a fight broke out among the locals.
Grading the West players from Sunday's NBA All-Star Game:
We all remember how it ended last June, the Celtics winning their 17th NBA championship, Paul Pierce brandishing the Finals MVP trophy, Doc Rivers with a silly smile and a sticky suit, Kevin Garnett essentially losing his marbles in the clamor and the confetti, and Kobe Bryant subdued, almost unresponsive at times, after a 39-point drubbing in Game 6.
The uniforms said New York Knicks, but LeBron James' real opponent Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden was playing almost 350 miles away in Toronto.
NEW YORK -- In setting a new Madison Square Garden scoring record with 61 points Monday night, Kobe Bryant may have led his Lakers to a 126-117 victory (Recap | Box), and he may have won over a crowd that repeatedly erupted into chants of M-V-P, but he also re-opened a dangerous chapter of Lakers history.