Los Angeles Lakers: Olympics

Bryant reflects on his lasting impact

November, 29, 2012
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin

At some point in the last couple of seasons, Kobe Bryant started saving away the fresh pair of sneakers he wears every game instead of giving them out to fans or locker room attendants because he says he's "become sentimental in my old age."

As a veteran with 17 seasons in the NBA and as 34-year-old man who has spent literally half his life in the league, Bryant has also become quite comfortable with discussing the not-too-distant end to his sterling career.

There are moments almost game to game where Bryant finds himself setting some sort of record, giving his shoes more meaning. Just last week he passed Oscar Robertson to assume the No. 5 spot on the list for most amount of 30-point games in NBA history.

While Bryant is tracking his history with his shoe collection, he's making history with his shoes too. Bryant met with a small assembly of reporters at the launch event for his Nike Kobe VIII signature shoe Thursday and unveiled the lightest basketball sneaker in the history of the company -- just 9.6 ounces, nearly half the weight of his original Nike Zoom Kobe I (17.0 ounces) that came out in 2006.

Following the unveiling, Bryant sat down for an interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com from the 32nd floor of the AT&T Building in downtown L.A. to discuss his new shoe but also take a look back at his lasting legacy to the game.

"Just by observation of some of the younger players that I face now, they wind up having a similar mentality that I had," Bryant said when asked how he has changed the sport during his time as a pro. "Because growing up, they were obviously watching me when I was 21, 22 years old and just kind of by any means necessary get things done, not afraid of the big moment and extremely competitive. They all have these work ethics now and most of them get up at five in the morning to train like I do. It’s pretty cool."

Bryant also touched on a variety of subjects, including the whirlwind start of the season having three different head coaches in the first 15 games:

"It’s been a little different, to say the least. But, it is what it is. You can’t be one to make excuses. You have to figure out how we’re going to get there. Our destination is to win a championship and it’s to get there by any means necessary. So, whatever it is we have to solve, we just have to solve it."

On missing out on an opportunity with Phil Jackson:

"You always want to kind of reconnect because you’ve had that relationship with him forever. It’s the same thing with Steve (Nash) with Coach (Mike) D’Antoni. They’ve had that relationship. So, it’s always a part of me that misses that, but I’m very thankful and very happy for the years that we’ve spent."

And on how winning his second gold medal in London last summer can help fuel his quest for championship No. 6:

"It just continues to fuel your appetite. You have one bite of the cookie and you want to finish it, you know what I mean? So, it continues to fuel the appetite and continues to fuel my drive even more."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Q&A: Pau on charitable efforts, Olympics, Dwight and more

August, 27, 2012
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
The term "offseason" seems like a bit of a farce when you consider what forward Pau Gasol has been up to since the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs in May. From visiting hospitals in L.A., to adding another silver medal to his collection in London, to continuing his charitable work with UNICEF, Gasol has been a busy man.

Gasol checked in with ESPNLosAngeles.com from the nation of Chad, where he is visiting in his role as UNICEF Spain Ambassador. Gasol hopes his trip will help bring awareness to the nutritional crisis going on in the Sahel belt, a region that spans across Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. In Chad alone, UNICEF estimates that more than 127,000 children are at serious risk of malnutrition because of severe drought.

McMenamin: Did you ever expect that your philanthropic efforts would take you all over the world? Did you ever expect to set foot in Chad?

Gasol: No. Not really. But talking to UNICEF right after the season, we were thinking about planning a trip but also thinking and being aware of the situation right now that the whole belt of the Sahel is going through. Obviously, it’s an emergency situation with a lot of kids in grave risk. So, I told them, ‘Look, just tell me where you need me to go. Tell me what country needs help the most and I’ll be there.’

McMenamin: I understand it’s a nutritional crisis. What exactly are you guys doing to help? Are you developing some kind of food source for the children? How are you focusing your efforts while you’re over there?

Gasol: UNICEF works more on the nutritional side of the crisis. Obviously with the lack of rain last year, the harvest has been really poor, so there’s a food crisis that affects 18 million people. They’re all at great risk of death because of it.

So, UNICEF provides them with nutritional centers to treat and prevent malnutrition. They also provide all the supplies -- the medical supplies, the formulas that (the children) eat, the treatment that they have to go through to get out of the malnutrition state. So, more or less, that’s what UNICEF does. They also coordinate with other NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that are also here, which work at providing food and promoting agriculture and supporting by giving supplies and developing a way to get the water out of the ground (for treatment and consumption).

There’s a bunch of stuff that’s being done here because the infrastructure is so poor and so underdeveloped. There’s a lot of things that are being done and a lot of efforts that are being put into all these areas. But still, there’s more to be done.

McMenamin: Obviously you’ve been involved with various causes through UNICEF; is it devastating to be there witnessing this situation? Can you describe what it’s like dealing with children and your part on the ground while you’re there?

Gasol: It’s hard to see the reality. I think it’s positive for me to be here and experience and be able to share it with people who are interested in it and might want to listen to it because, obviously, these people need support. They need people who are willing to help them out and also to make people aware of what’s going on in other parts of the world. There are people that are much less privileged than we are, just by the simple fact of being born in a different country, in a different continent. We just don’t realize how lucky we are. I think it’s good for me to also create awareness so these people receive a little more help.

McMenamin: You told us in May when you got the citizenship award that you don’t do this for recognition, but when you find out about new issues like this that you can get behind, is it in conjunction with UNICEF? How do you choose the next issue to try to help with?

Gasol: We more or less analyze what’s going on at the time. Obviously when there’s an emergency like this one and a situation of crisis, a food crisis, I think that goes up in the priority list. But, if not, I like to create and be a part of more of a sustainable project, but obviously you have to attend to the basic needs and survival needs and rights in order to do something sustainable and long term. More or less, we evaluated every chance we had an opportunity to do something.

McMenamin: I kind of touched on this before, but can you give me a sense of what the conditions are like in Chad? Are you seeing children who are so malnourished that they’re having trouble doing basic tasks?

Gasol: The severe, acute malnourished children, they’re in really bad shape. All of them are in danger of dying. Luckily, if you catch them at an early state of it, you’re able to treat them and it’s not going to create any chronic effect after the treatment. But there are a lot of different layers. Malnutrition obviously comes from not eating properly, but also from not drinking clean water, which is another issue why I’m visiting and being here. The fact of being able to get water to drink that doesn’t cause you diarrhea or cholera ... there’s a lot of diseases that come from that.

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PodKast: The schedule, Olympics and mascot heists

July, 28, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
At long last, a string of legitimate offseason basketball topics that don't include the words "Dwight" or "Howard!" Huzzah!!! It's enough to make a pair of podcasters giddy with glee. The show can be heard by clicking on the module, and a list of talking points can be found below.

Play Download

- (4:45): After establishing why Brian drinks stray, half-opened bottles of water, we discuss the news that NBA jerseys will soon feature advertising. Neither of us reallly mind -- the league has long passed the point of no return with commercialization, anyway -- but care must be taken to avoid poorly matched teams and products.

- (10:00): Thursday, we offered a quick reaction to the Lakers' newly released schedule. Now we dig deeper, breaking down some roadies and 16 back-to-back sets. All in all, it's a fairly favorable slate. Not many stretches with one powerhouse team after another, and even the Grammy Trip isn't too hairy. Obviously, there will be tough games, because that's just the nature of the NBA, but the schedule-makers certainly didn't act with vengeance towards the purple and gold.

- (19:00): Brian senses palpable hysteria and dread from fans at the prospect of Team USA failing to grab the Gold in London. Frankly, it's a little over the top. Yes, America boasts the rightfully favored squad and it would be anticlimactic seeing them fall short. But this also isn't 1992, when The Dream Team ran roughshod over a bunch of countries well behind the basketball curve. The level of global competition has grown significantly, which means the U.S. is vulnerable for a loss. It's inevitable at some point, and it's not a travesty.

- (26:30): A combination of human drama and kitsch value drives Brian's interest in the Olympics.

- (29:00): Kobe Bryant recently declared as long as he's a Laker, Pau Gasol will also be one. It's the latest example of a relationship that's sometimes complicated and frustrating for both players, but ultimately based in mutual respect and appreciation.

- (32:05): Friday's theft of the "Wally the Green Monster" costume from Fenway is yet another example why the Lakers don't have a mascot.

The Forum: Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in the Olympics

July, 22, 2012
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
The Lakers have two key players suiting up when the Olympics roll around at the end of the month. Any cause for concern? We kick the topic around with ESPNLA's Ramona Shelburne.

Four years ago this summer, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul were two of 12 NBA players determined to restore America's standing as the worldwide kings of basketball. In a classic game against Spain (featuring none other than Pau Gasol), Team USA won the gold and showed fans how a team of elite superstars can push egos to the side for the sake of a larger goal.

With Lakers-Clippers on the docket this evening
, various ESPN scribes (including the K Bros) gathered thoughts from Bryant's and Paul's Olympic teammates and coaches about the experience of working with them. Click here to make a patriotic trip down Memory Lane, and below are excerpts with Kobe's and Paul's recollections about one another:

Kobe on Paul: He's tough. He's tough as nails, man; he doesn't back down from anything or anybody. I'd never been as close to him, but when I was [on the Olympic team] I'd try to challenge him, see what he's made of and he's a tough little sucker.

Paul on Kobe: Me and Kob really figured out how much we had in common on that trip. That Olympic experience is when we got a lot closer. Me and my wife send him Christmas cards and his family sends us Christmas cards, and now we talk on a regular basis. We both want to win so badly. It's one of those things where as great a relationship as we have, as long as we're playing on the same court against each other, we're always going to get into it, you know what I mean? That's the respect factor, because you know that he wants it just as bad as I do.

Kobe & Pau: Lakers teammates, Olympic opponents

February, 8, 2012
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
In what's considered one of the greatest basketball games of the history of the sport, the United States beat Spain in the gold medal game at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The storylines attached to the game are endless. From the significance of the "Redeem Team" putting USA Basketball back in the gold medal winners' circle for the first time since 2000; to the sneak preview aspect of USA's roster putting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together long before "The Decision"; to a teenage Ricky Rubio showing off his skills on the world's stage.

The biggest story for Lakers fans, however, was the fact that before Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol had won a championship together for the purple and gold, they competed for a championship against one another for their countries.

The 2012 London games are still six months away, but the trash talk has already started between the two.

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Kobe Bryant
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.0
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.2