This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's February 29 NBA Body Analytics Issue. Subscribe today!
NO ATHLETE AGES well. Time always wins, all too quickly, and injuries and wear and tear expedite fate. Which is why, on a mid-November night after a win over Detroit, Kobe Bryant teeters on the edge of collapse. The Lakers icon stands before his Staples Center locker, swallowed by a media mob, shuffling his feet, shifting weight back and forth several times during a seven-and-a-half-minute session. His expression reveals nothing; no contortions or grimaces. But he seems uncomfortable. Often, before the media, he is as still as a statue. "Right now, I'm barely standing up," he says, plain-faced, his voice low. "My back and my legs, man -- it's killing me."
All eyes will be on Kobe Bryant for his 18th and final All-Star Game on Sunday. For many of those who will share the stage with him, it will be an unforgettable moment. Here's what some of this year's All-Stars recently had to say about the Lakers star, who is retiring at the end of the season.
On Kobe's impact:
Paul George, Pacers forward: He's going to go down as one of the best to ever play the game. He was just fearless. He's a champion. To get to where you want to get to, you have to put the work in. His work ethic is one thing that he has. That's the reason why he's so great.
John Wall, Wizards guard: Basically the Michael Jordan of our era is what I see with all of his dedication to the game, his competitive drive. He's one of those guys that always wants the ball in a tough situation. No matter the circumstances, he believes in himself, no matter what.
Chris Bosh, Heat forward: He's one of the greatest iconic players this league has ever had. He's had such an imprint on our childhood. I know he had an imprint on my childhood.
Russell Westbrook, Thunder guard: Me growing up in Los Angeles and being able to see Kobe, obviously he's one of the greatest players to play the game. It was a true honor to be able to learn from him. It's a great experience to be able to learn different things from him, not just on the floor but off the floor as well.
The Jordan Brand gave Bryant a full set of the sneakers released so far in the Air Jordan line -- 30 pairs in all. The gift was presented early Saturday at the Jordan Brand All-Star party, which Bryant attended.
"The Jordan Brand is about more than basketball, it's about leaving a legacy and honoring those who have left a legacy," Jordan Brand president Larry Miller said. "Tonight the brand was able to honor one of the game's great players and the legacy he created."
Included in the set are purple-and-gold versions of the Air Jordan III and Air Jordan VIII -- the two shoes that Bryant wore during the 2002-03 season.
Bryant, an 18-time All-Star who is retiring after this season, received the 30 pairs of white shoes in his size 14.
An alternate set of shoes -- in black, also size 14 -- is being auctioned off on eBay for charity with an opening bid of $100,000. The auction ends Sunday at noon ET.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
It all started when Bryant posted a question on his Twitter feed. The hashtag #Kobe11 was in reference to his shoe line, where star themes often appear.
Who can tell me what a supernova is? #KOBE11
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) February 11, 2016
One Los Angeles resident who responded happened to be a USC doctor, Rahul Dhawan. He works in the East L.A. community and goes by @ElDoctorRahul on Twitter -- his professional area of expertise is kidney transplants.
@kobebryant A supernova is a rare astronomical event that occurs during the last stellar evolutionary stages of a massive star's life, YOU
— Dr Rahul Dhawan (@ElDoctorRahul) February 11, 2016
Bryant was definitely amused by his answer, which spoke to both a scientific understanding of stars and an awareness of the point Bryant's career has reached.
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) February 12, 2016
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