Commentary

Kobe Bryant glimpses retirement

Updated: June 4, 2013, 7:02 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

Kobe Bryant had a film session last week, only this time he found himself turning off Dr. James Naismith's game to watch Dr. Seuss.

"I tried watching a game," Bryant told me Monday in a sit-down interview. "I tried watching Miami-Indiana, Game 3 maybe or Game 4, I can't really remember, but I'm sitting in bed, I'm watching it. My kids jump in the bed, I'm sitting there watching the game and they're like, 'Hey, we want to watch 'The Lorax.' Can we watch 'The Lorax'? I was like, 'No, I'm watching the … yeah, what the hell. Why not? Yeah, sure. What am I watching this for anyway? Yeah, let's watch 'The Lorax.'"

Instead of tuning into LeBron James playing basketball with ease, Bryant chose to watch the little furry guy who speaks for the trees.

Yup, this is as close to retirement as Bryant has ever been.

And he seems to be just fine with that.

"I'm limited as to what I can do," Bryant said, laughing when I referred to retirement as the R-word, rather than scolding me for bringing up the subject as he might have done in the past. "I can't train. I can't get after it. When you retire, I'm assuming there's no incentive to push yourself as hard as you've been pushing yourself physically, so, you have to start focusing on other things.

"But to be honest with you man, I love the game, but there's something about lying in the bed or sitting on the couch and watching a kid's movie that's just much more enjoyable."

Bryant turns 35 in August. The birthday will officially push his lifetime score to NBA Player 18 (years), Regular Guy 17. At least for now, his torn Achilles means more time to spend with his daughters -- 10-year-old Natalia and 7-year-old Gianna -- and more time to ponder what he's going to do when there isn't a next season to prepare for or next game to play.

"It's still a moving target," Bryant said. "I think for me it's about finding something that you're equally as passionate about, that you can really sit down and do on a daily basis. But finding that is half the battle."

He's taught himself piano in the past year, but cracked up at the idea of him leaving basketball to become a concert pianist. If his Twitter timeline is any indication, the advertising world has Bryant's attention. He's also taken up the cause to eradicate homelessness in Los Angeles. And ever since his youth, when he was an American boy living in Italy, he's had a keen interest in fostering relationships across cultural boundaries and could pursue that in some capacity.

"It's about finding what that next challenge is going to be and then being able to go for it," Bryant said. "Being in this position, I'm pretty fortunate to be able to pick up the phone and talk to some of the people who are the best in their respective fields and just try to learn as much as I can."

Who are those people?

"You know I always keep those mentors secret, man," Bryant said. "They're all considered chief Buddhas to me."

While Bryant is privileged enough to be able seek counsel from pretty much whomever he chooses, he knows that trial and error is just as important in the growth process -- just as it was for his basketball career.

"It's crazy when you go through life and you go through kind of tip-toeing and being afraid to make mistakes or whatever, you really don't learn anything and you don't experience anything," Bryant said. "I've really experienced life to the fullest in trying to figure how to lead, how not to lead and how to follow and all this sort of stuff. You only can do that just by putting yourself out there and making mistakes and trying to figure it out as you go."

This summer will be a taste of the post-NBA life that Bryant will resume sooner rather than later. Will it be one more season before he's retired for good? Two?

His game will tell him when it's time to go. However, as long as he's under contract, he is going to do everything he can to represent the Los Angeles Lakers' purple and gold and all that it stands for. Bryant, a New York Yankees fan, was able to draw a comparison to Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter in the twilight of their careers.

"These guys really try to figure out everything that they can do to make sure they're playing at a top level, or, if they're not, then why play? You're doing a disservice to this great organization," Bryant said.

The man still measures himself as Kobe Bryant, basketball player, but the search for a new title is in full thrust.

"Now you start looking at what the future is going to be post your NBA career -- things that you can focus on, things that you can acclimate yourself to -- and you start looking at that as a challenge a little bit," Bryant said.

But before Bryant gets totally engulfed in that next challenge, don't be surprised if he sits back and watches "Horton Hears a Who!" with his daughters.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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