In a season full of more losses than anyone expected, the Lakers family suffered another huge one during the All-Star break. Legendary owner Jerry Buss passed away at the age of 80. Known for bringing pizazz and championships to Los Angeles, Buss had quite an impact on the Lakers and he set a standard of excellence in Hollywood.
That standard hasn’t been met this season by the Lakers. Despite having so much talent on the roster, L.A. is still three games under .500. As L.A. prepares for the second half of the season and they try to climb back into the Western Conference playoff race in the second, they would be wise to revisit the traits that made Dr. Buss so successful. Sometimes losses like this have a tendency to galvanize teams and create a special bond, something that was missing for the Lakers in the first half of the season.
Kobe Bryant joined ESPN Radio Los Angeles with Mason and Ireland to talk about whether he was able to visit Dr. Buss before he passed away, why he decided to end his trade demands, if he was able to bond with Dr. Buss over their competitiveness, why he thinks the Lakers are three games under .500, what his reaction is when he gets compared to guys like Michael Jordan and whether he thinks LeBron James is better than him.
Were you able to visit Dr. Buss before he passed?
“I did. The day I went and saw him it was one of his better days. We had a chance to kind of sit there and talk. We talked basketball, we talked Laker history, we talked about all kinds of things. It was a great moment.”
There was a time that you demanded a trade, what changed when you met with Dr. Buss during that time?
“Well we got on the same page. The thing that was important to me at the time is I was facing a tremendous amount of pressure to win a championship post-Shaq. I didn” want to be one of the players that went down in history as a player that didn’t win. During that transition period it was my impression that we were going to spend whatever it took to bring a team here that’s a championship level. We were actually doing the opposite so when he and I sat down ad talked I told him how I was feeling and he told me what his plan was. ‘This is how I plan to rebuild, this is the year that I believe it’s going to take us to get to that level, this is what’s best for the organization financially and then once I heard that I said, ‘I’m cool, let’s do this thing.’ I didn’t know what the heck was going on. It just seemed like they were just cutting cost and letting me run up and down, scoring all the points. After that meeting, we just were on the same page and it was history from there.”
Whether he bonded with Dr. Jerry Buss because of the competitiveness they both shared:
“We bonded every time because just our drive to be successful was there. I think you can see it. Everybody that follows Laker basketball knows that it is championship or bust and that starts with Dr. Buss. He believed that we should be winning championships every single year. If it’s a rebuilding year then he wants to have a rebuilding period be a short one and then we’re right back at it again. That just comes from his competitive spirit and we definitely bonded over that.”
Why he thinks the Lakers are 25-28:
“You have to look at the first half of the season. There have been a lot of moving targets, there has been a lot thrown into that pot. The new system with Mike Brown and then being let go, then Steve’s (Nash) freak injury, Dwight (Howard) recovering from back surgery. All these different pieces and then we get the pieces back in then we bring in a new coaching staff and a new system, then we had more injuries take place with the team and then we get another rhythm and then there’s another injury with Pau Gasol. We’re constantly having to find a balance of trying to figure something new out and there hasn’t been a threat of consistency.”
On the idea that Dwight Howard doesn’t like this offense much:
“Well, I don’t like passing as much as I’m passing either but I have to do it in order to win. We just do what we do to help each other win ball games, even if you prefer to do something else. At this point it really doesn’t matter, it’s just about helping us be successful and he’s great, he could be absolutely great and obviously Steve, we know how fantastic Steve is at doing it and it really plays to our strengths.”
What his reaction is when he gets compared to guys like Michael Jordan:
“I don’t really have a reaction to it. We measure everybody by the greatness that came before us. I think people sometimes forget how great players were before. You forget about the streak Jordan had, you forget about what Magic (Johnson) did, you forget about what Larry Bird did, that’s something that gets pushed to the back-burner. Just go back and look at what some of those guys were doing and some of the numbers that they were putting up, they have done astronomical things and for LeBron, LeBron is still young in his career and still has a lot of runs to make, with this being the first streak that he has put together that has been one of, in a historical sense, but I’m sure he will have many more of those down the road.”
Is LeBron as good as you?
“Is he as good as me? (Host: Yeah, is he as good of a basketball player as you are?) I mean every time you start comparing players to some of the all-time greats then you have to put him in that same room.”
Listen to Kobe Bryant on ESPN Radio LA here (Audio begins 18:10 into the podcast)