- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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Kobe Bryant has been in a bit of a groove lately.
In his last five games, Bryant is averaging 34.8 points on 56.9 percent shooting, 7.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists, and the Lakers are 4-1.
"I’m just playing better, that’s all," Bryant said after Monday's practice.
Bryant's hot streak has provided another opportunity to look back at what he's accomplishing as a 34-year-old in his 17th season. He's averaging 27.3 points (No. 3 in the league), 5.6 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals and is shooting 47.2 percent from the field, the best mark of his career.
How does he do it?
"There’s a certain commitment," Bryant said. "There’s a lot of sacrifice and a lot of attention to detail that goes into trying to play at a high level for a long, long time. It’s a lot of sacrifice, man. But to me, it’s worth it."
Bryant detailed that sacrifice includes everything from what he puts in his body to how he divvies up his time.
"I think diet is always the hardest thing, because we’re all accustomed to eating what we want to eat whenever we want to eat it, and you become comfortable with that," Bryant said. "So changing that is in essence changing your lifestyle. So that’s probably been the most difficult."
Bryant changed up his diet in summer 2008 to lose weight and take pressure off his knees, but this time around it's been more of a total commitment rather than just cutting out pizza and grape soda, two of his old vices.
"I think last summer was when I really started paying attention to it, becoming obsessive about it," Bryant said. "Working out in the summer I felt I was in pretty good shape but I still felt lethargic in my conditioning. I said ‘Let me give this diet thing a shot,’ and it changed within a week for me. I knew then the significance of it."
It doesn't mean that he never cheats on his diet once in awhile.
"Sugar cookies, for sure," Bryant said. "You just try to balance it out. Sometimes I have a cookie now and then, but for the most part I stick to it pretty well."
It's been well-documented that Bryant is a workout machine, but more time in the gym means less time with his family.
"That’s always been there," Bryant said. "Even when I was a kid, hanging out with my sisters and friends and things like that, that’s always been something that you have to sacrifice, and you also have to have a family that’s understanding of that as well."
Bryant downplayed the significance of the orthokine therapy he received on his knee in the summer of 2011 as a major contributing factor, pointing out that he had a turn-back-the-clock dunk on Emeka Okafor, then on the New Orleans Hornets, in the playoffs that spring before heading to Germany for the procedure.
Ultimately, Bryant says his stay at the top of his sport has been more about mentality than physicality.
"After so many years, it becomes easy to lose focus," he said. "Some guys lose focus from game to game. I take it as a challenge to try to be focused for many, many years."
Has Bryant's focus ever waned through 17 seasons, 1,441 games (including the playoffs) and 61,947 minutes played?
"No," he said.
And so he stays on top.
41dMatt Walks, ESPN.com