My last interview with Kobe Bryant could have been done in person or over the phone. The option was mine. I had to be in Calabasas that morning to pick up my car, which was being serviced, and Bryant’s office was in Costa Mesa, about 70 miles or a two-hour drive away.
We were scheduled to do the interview Monday, Oct. 21, before the season opener between the Lakers and Clippers the next night and I wanted to talk to him about the state of basketball in Los Angeles, the Mamba Sports Academy and a few other topics. He said he had about 20 minutes to chat over the phone or I could come to his office.
It didn’t make much sense to spend four hours on the road for a 20-minute interview, but I hadn’t seen Kobe in a while so I decided to make the drive. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my career.
We talked about basketball but we also talked about life and his family. He loved spending time with his wife, Vanessa, and their daughters, Natalia, 16, Gianna, 13, Bianka, 3, and Capri, who was born last June.
He told me he wouldn’t be at the season opener because he was going to Natalia’s volleyball game that night. When I asked him why he rarely went to Lakers games he smiled.
“I have my routine at home,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t want to go, but I’d rather be giving B.B. a shower and sing Barney songs to her. I played 20 years and I missed those moments before.
“For me to make the trip up to Staples Center, that means I’m missing an opportunity to spend another night with my kids when I know how fast it goes. … I want to make sure the days that I’m away from them are days that I absolutely have to be. I’d rather be with them than doing anything else.”
Whenever he did come to a game it was with Gianna, who was his shadow at the end of his career and in retirement. She routinely traveled to work with him and he loved coaching her and her basketball teammates at the Mamba Sports Academy.
“What I love about Gigi is her curiosity about the game,” Bryant said. “She’s very curious. Even in a heated situation in a game where it’s going back and forth, she can detach herself and come to me and ask a very specific question, which is not common. She’ll come over and say, ‘OK, on this particular trap when I’m trying to close the gap but she’s getting on the outside, do I need to change my angle?’ It’s a very specific question. That’s pretty damn cool.”
I wrote about our conversation in the Los Angeles Times the next day, but for the first time watch the video above for audio of my last interview with Kobe.