For most of his career in the NBA, there have been two Kobe Bryants, each evolving in mirror universes.
One is a 6-foot-6 Los Angeles Lakers guard who grew up playing Double Dribble, a video game released in the 1980s, with his cousins during summer visits to his grandmother's house.
The other is also a basketball player, albeit a digital one created 10 years ago by Visual Concepts, a video game developer in Novato, Calif.
If the real Kobe built up his shoulders, so would the virtual Kobe. When he became leaner and faster, his digital doppelganger also became sleeker and more fleet-footed. And if Kobe grew more hair, digital Kobe would also have longer hair.
This year, the virtual player will acquire another trait when NBA 2K10 comes out Oct. 6: He will sometimes jut out his chin in the heat of competition, just like the real Kobe.
The game's developer, now owned by Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., has added facial animations to its franchise, which over the years has become the bestselling basketball simulation video game on the market. Much of the franchise's success is due to the studio's near-fanatical devotion to replicating the details of the actual sport in the video games.
What does Bryant think about this? He spoke with The Times last week about the NBA 2K titles, which he likes to play because it lets him "practice without getting hurt."
What games did you play when you were a boy?
Double Dribble was my game. I had six cousins. My father played. My uncle played. My sisters played. We all got together at my grandmother's house and had these tournaments in summertime in the back house. It was really brutal. We played for hours. Then we'd go into the swimming pool. Then go back and play again. It was good times.
Do you play now?
During the season, [Lakers guard] Jordan Farmar brings the Xbox  along. The guys hook it up to the TV, and we compete. I have a lot of responsibilities making sure the team functions, so most of my time is spent doing my homework. But every once in a while I get to play.
What do you think of your character in NBA 2K10?
The same way I think of all the other characters. I think the detail in them is just fascinating. You can look at the characters and tell who's who just by their body movements, their facial expressions, their profiles, before you even look at their numbers.
It's remarkable the attention to detail. You see the ball go through the net, and you see how the net reacts to it. Just little things like that. I pay attention to those things because I love the game so much. The ball goes through and swooshes the net. I love that.
What kind of feedback have you given the game's developers over the years?
For me it's always been the same. I want to see my moves in the game. I want to see my character do what I do. Every character should have moves that are exclusive to them.
One thing you sometimes do is chew on your jersey. Is that in the game?
I do?! Really? I didn't even notice that. That's crazy.
You also jut your jaw out when you're playing intensely. Is that in the game?
Well, the jaw thing I know about, and that's in the game. It'll have facial expressions like the eyes, the mouth, the jaw moving. Yeah, all of that's in the game. It all helps to bring people closer to the game.
What do you want players to feel when they're playing your character?
I want them to live it. I want them to compete. Because that's what I do when I play. That's what's fun to me.
Times staff writer Nathan Olivarez-Giles contributed to this report.