What’s your favorite memory here?
I think it was maybe Game 3, 2000 Finals I believe it was. I think it was Game 3. It was either Game 3 or Game 4. I still remember the feeling I had of coming up with the big block on [Arvydas] Sabonis down the stretch, that being a pivotal game in the series. That was a pretty cool memory. I was still a baby. I was like 21, 20 years-old. I had the afro. I could grow the afro. That was cool and so, you know, that time was a really, really good time.
Aside from our team performance, it was a blast to be here. I’ve had so many memories here. Most of the time ended up on the losing side of things in the regular season, but so many great memories here. The fans and the playoff battles; I just try to take it all in as much as possible. Just kind of glance around and…
That suit you wore tonight—it looked a little bit like Dr. Jack. Was that—
It was a subtle tribute. It’s a subtle tribute. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Kobe, what’s going through your head when the fans are chanting your name in the fourth? You know you’re not going to go on.
I was just trying to get loose at that point, just in case coach wanted to put me in. I would have completely understood and I would have went in the game willingly, but to get that kind of reaction obviously means a lot. I just wish there was more things I could do to thank them. Here and Sacramento—those are really special places for me—and San Antonio because of the playoff battles that we’ve had, so I’m just extremely, extremely appreciative.
This is another one of those games where you’re getting boos every time you have the ball. What is it about that that you like?
I mean, that’s what it’s been. My entire career, that’s what it’s been. Why would I want it to be any different? Why would the fans want it to be any different? That’s the way it’s been. You want to go out the way, you know… I think the big difference is at the end of the game, right? When the chants and the mutual respect. It’s like you can actually show it now because you know there’s no coming back. That’s the difference, but the boos every time I touch it—I absolutely love it. One fan courtside was like, ‘Man, I’m going to miss hating you.’ I said ‘Thank you. I’m going to miss loving the fact that you hate me.’
Kobe, if there’s one season that you could relive looking back on everything now, which season would it be?
Hmm… That’s tough, man. I’ve been fortunate to have some pretty good runs. I think the 2009 team. That was 2008-2009, I think that was the most fun I’ve ever had playing on a team. All of us. I mean, we hung out all day together. I mean, the entire team. I’ve never played with a team that was so close and played so well on the court. That was just a fun season.
Tex [Winter] used to say all the time, ‘Everything turns on a trifle.’ That’s been something that’s always stuck with me, and in Game 7, there were a couple plays that turned the tide. It’s such a game of emotion, it doesn’t matter what the score is. If there’s a flip in the momentum of the game, then all of a sudden things become harder for one team or the other. Routine plays become harder to make and we were able to flip that switch. So once that happened, it became very, very difficult for them to overcome that. It doesn’t matter how much talent you have.
An off-the-court memories that you’ll think of?
Yeah, I used to go for walks a lot here in Portland. I used to go for walks a lot even while it was raining. I just felt like it was an extremely beautiful city and I used to go walking around quite a bit. During the playoffs, you know, I’m not a big sleeper, so at 2:00, 3:00 in the morning I’d just go for a walk and just take it all in.
What do you think of Dame [Lillard] and CJ [McCollum]'s future?
It’s whatever they want it to be. Truly, I mean, it’s whatever they want it to be. They have so much talent, so much potential, and they’re both extremely hard working, and very curious about the game.
Do you think Dame should be an All-Star?
Why is that even a question? Of course he should be. Of course.
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