Kobe. The Legend. The Man.
The naturally fielded question is generally about the influence Michael Jordan had on his career. Kobe recently said that he was open to becoming a member of the Bulls at the height of his public breakup with Shaquille O'Neal in 04.
"My wife and I were actually planning travel arrangements to come out to Chicago to look at some homes and schools," Bryant said before Sundays game. "And then Shaq demanded a trade. And i was like, 'There's no way they're going to trade me anywhere.'"
Kobe wouldn't have felt pressure to live to Jordan's legacy if he had become a Bull, all he would have concerned himself with was continuing the level of success "His Airiness" had set for the franchise.
"If that trade had happened, it's not a pressure situation to live up to what he's done," Bryant said. "It's more like, 'OK, I'm carrying on this man's legacy. Can I do it justice? Can I represent Chicago the way it should be represented in his honor?'"
Bryant’s farewell tour has largely been symbolic, an ode to his 20 seasons and five championships.
“Six (rings) doesn't seem like it’s in the cards,” Bryant quipped knowingly.
But the Chicago game wasn't a routine stop along his farewell tour. Bryant nearly became a Bull twice, once in 2004 and again in 2007.
"No words can really do it justice," Bryant said of Jordan's influence,
Kobe also recalled his first game against Jordan and the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 17, 1996. Bryant played 10 minutes, going 2-of-5 from the field and scoring five points. Jordan, on the other hand, dropped 30 points in a 129-123 victory for Chicago.
"Getting schooled for a baseline dunk the first time I matched up with him. That was the coolest thing," Bryant said of the game
To hear him tell it, it was closer than most realize.
His lift isn't as high and his handles aren't as crisp, but in this lost Laker season, he still makes for appointment viewing. It’s why he was serenaded with at least three “Ko-be” chants in an arena already dripping with iconic history.
“I’m at peace, extremely at peace,” he said. “I keep waiting for the hammer to drop. At some point it really has to hit, but it hasn't hit me yet. I feel it’s the right thing and I’m ready to move on.”
If Kobe did join the Bulls, I truly believe he could of made his own legacy. The pressure to live up to someone like Jordan is unbearable but Kobe could of made a difference.
Even legends question themselves.