FOUR-TIME NBA CHAMP
The perennial MVP candidate is averaging 27.7 points (fourth in the NBA) for the Lakers, who are comfortably atop the Western Conference
Dan Patrick:LeBron has been taking some deep threes lately.
Kobe Bryant: That is a strong kid, man.
DP:Was there ever a time when you decided to concentrate on adding the three to your arsenal?
KB: There was one year in particular when I felt like I really needed to work on my three game. It was '03. That was pretty much what I did all summer.
DP:How many jumpers would you take a day?
KB: Too many. [Laughs.] Too many. The next year, I came back and I was knocking down threes like they were elbow jumpers.
DP:When is the last time you were 100% healthy?
KB: I was probably about 17. Once you come into the NBA and start playing these 82-game seasons, it's all downhill.
DP:What hurts today when you wake up?
KB: When I wake up, actually nothing. But the [right index finger, which was broken earlier this season, is] always there.
DP:When does it bother you?
KB: Every time I catch a ball, it hurts.
DP:Are you trying to teach yourself how to catch a ball without it hurting?
KB: You know what, I pad it. I pad it and so I catch [the ball]. It kind of absorbs some of the pain.
DP:Did you talk with Dr. Buss or Phil Jackson or Mitch Kupchak before the trade deadline?
DP:Do you want to have input?
KB: No, I don't. Zero.
DP:Those days are over?
KB: I'm not a G.M. I retired my G.M. hat.
DP:You didn't get G.M. of the year a couple years ago when you pushed for the team to trade Andrew Bynum, did you?
KB: No, you know what, I think I was snubbed.
DP:I asked David Beckham which athlete from another sport would make a great soccer player. He said you. How would you do on a soccer field right now?
KB: Um, not very good. It's been awhile. It's been a long, long time since I played. When I was in Italy, I used to play every single day. Here in the States you don't have a chance to play that much. It's not like you're driving down the street and you see pickup soccer games.
DP:The athleticism that it takes to play in the NBA and play soccer—how much crossover is there?
KB: It's similar in the agility, the foot speed, the coordination you need. Obviously handling the ball with your boot and handling the ball with the palm of your hand are two different things.
DP:People seem to think they have to wait until you win six championships to compare you with Michael Jordan.
KB: Trust me, it's an honor for me to even be in that conversation. I mean, my game would be nowhere near where it is today without Michael. So to me, it's laughable to hear that comparison because I've learned so much from him.
DP:Who do you think you would have modeled your game after if you didn't have Michael?
KB: Jerry West was another player I looked at. Our games were very similar—jumpers and fadeaways.
DP:Any advice for LeBron as he approaches free agency?
KB: Just do whatever makes you happy. That's what I told him and D-Wade.
Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy told me the quarterback he'd most like to sack in the NFL is fellow Sooner Sam Bradford. The likely high pick said that the OU staff wouldn't allow the defense to get anywhere near Bradford, whom McCoy jokingly nicknamed King Sam. Said McCoy, "I remember, I rubbed Sam's arm one time [in practice], and the whole coaching staff threatened to kill me."
Warriors coach Don Nelson has a reputation for making life hard on rookies, but first-year star guard Stephen Curry had nothing but praise for his boss. "He's a great coach," Curry told me. "I've heard all about how he treats rookies. I've had a different experience with him." Indeed he has; Curry, who is scoring 16.0 points per game, is averaging more minutes (35.7) than any other rookie in Nelson's 31 seasons as a coach.
Line of the week
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has recently been linked to the Nets job, revealed how close he came to jumping to the Lakers in 2004: "The only reason the Laker [offer] was made public is because there was serious consideration. I was pretty close. We talked money, definitely. We talked everything."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Bud Selig discusses Mark McGwire's apology.
2. Bo Kimble remembers his late teammate Hank Gathers.
THE FINE PRINT: The NCAA tourney may expand to 96 teams next season. Not only that, the tournament nickname will change to March Chemical Imbalance.
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (PATRICK)
SOUTHCREEK GLOBAL/ZUMAPRESS.COM (MCCOY)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (KRZYZEWSKI, BRYANT)