In an exhaustive interview with Jackie MacMullan on ESPN Boston, Kobe Bryant dishes on nearly everything Boston. From his appreciation of Rondo’s play to his admiration for Gronk, his chippy relationship with Paul Pierce to his reverence for Belichick.
When asked if the Celtics are better without Rondo, “Kobe laughed uproariously — for a really, really long time.”
“You don’t want Rondo? Send him my way,” Kobe continued. “I love everything about him. Everything. I love his attitude, I love his chippiness, his edge, his intellect, his know-it-allness. All of it. That’s what makes championship players.
“What guard have you seen at his size that will get you 18 assists, 17 boards and 20 points all in one game? That’s unheard of. I love that kid. I always make a point of talking to him during All-Star [Weekend]. He’s one of my favorites.”
I’m not surprised by this in the least. Both intensely-focused, team-driven, no BS, often enigmatic players. No doubt in my mind Rondo would say the same thing about Kobe. Maybe not right now — now his response would be something along the lines of, “Yeah, I respect Kobe and his game…” — but once he’s matured enough to feel comfortable expressing himself.
From there, Kobe went on to discuss the first time he met Belichick and how their relationship has been built on “respect across professions.”
According to MacMullan, “Belichick and Bryant habitually have talked shop when Kobe comes to Boston.” The last time Kobe was in town, “He talked to me about how he coaches the game, how he minimizes mistakes, the value of a possession. Very interesting topics.”
Similar to Kobe’s respect for Rajon, I’m not surprised at his high opinion of Belichick, and for exactly the same reasons.
When asked if he expected Belichick to visit him tonight, he replied there was someone else he’d rather hear from.
“I’m hoping Gronk will be there. I like him,” Kobe divulged. “He seems to perform at a high level every time out. Last time we were in town we talked for a little bit. He was a fun guy.
“Everyone is so worked up about what he did [in Vegas]. It’s funny. If there were camera phones back in the day, the biggest athletes in the world would have had a lot of explaining to do.”
This is the only thing that really surprises me about the interview. Rondo = consummate professional. Belichick = consummate professional. Gronk = professional on the field, PR nightmare off. Kobe is all business both on and off the court. Not that I know how Kobe spends his non-game nights, but he clearly does a great job keeping it private.
That said, Kobe’s dead-on (in my opinion) about his comments about “camera phones back in the day.” Considering Jalen Rose’s recent declaration that Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game” was as much a “Hangover Game,” it seems wise for everyone to pull back the hounds they’ve put on Gronk and keep some perspective. Is Gronk foolish to do what he does in public? Yes, but that doesn’t mean countless if not the majority of other players aren’t doing the same things or worse behind closed doors.
MacMullan’s piece is a great read and there’s a lot more juice to it than just the stuff above. So, read it.