Kobe Bryant may be 37 years old, and he may be on his way out of the NBA, and he may be at least three seasons removed from playing at All-Star form, but he nevertheless has a message for his superstar peers, specifically in the Eastern Conference, who will join him in Toronto for the 2016 All-Star Game.
How serious is he about this message? So serious he invoked a Michael Jordan anecdote.
From Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears:
A nearly 40-year-old Michael Jordan told Kobe Bryant not to take it easy on him during Jordan’s final NBA All-Star Game in 2003. Now nearly 13 years later, Bryant has the same message for his NBA colleagues before his All-Star Game swan song.
“One thing that Michael said was, ‘Just because it’s my last All-Star Game, I don’t want you to come out there going soft on me,’ ” Bryant recently told Yahoo Sports. ” ‘I want you to play me how you would normally play me.’ I was like, ‘Mike, what do you know about me that would lead you to tell me that?’ We both got a good laugh out of that.
“The thing I remember most was the competition. Those are the things that I will always cherish. Hopefully, they will come out and compete as always this year. Those are the things I will always carry with me. Just true competition.”
Kobe goes on to say he’s honored to be in the All-Star Game—even though the rosters haven’t officially been named—and wasn’t expecting it.
He leads all players in votes, and his brand has long been a ubiquitous thorn in the side of judicious All-Star selections. This is his last season, and he was always going to be voted in as a starter.
It’s pretty cool, and typical, for him to expect the best from his opponents, even on a stage that doesn’t count toward the standings, even during an exhibition that classifies defense as optional.
Then again, would we expect anything less from who, whether you love him or hate him, is clearly one of the most ruthlessly competitive individuals the NBA has ever hosted?