“I’m 100%,” Kobe Bryant told Brazilian television. “This summer, I’m training really hard.”
The Los Angeles Lakers star player has not appeared on the court since December of 2013, and he only managed six games during the 2013-14 season. Six games was the fewest Bryant ever played in a season, and related, the LA Lakers won the fewest games in their history. Coming off an Achilles injury suffered at the tail-end of the 2012-13 season, Bryant suffered a fracture in his knee that healed slower than initially expected.
With the World Cup going strong in Brazil, however, the Lakers’ star decided to take time to take part in events for Nike and enjoy the tournament. As would be expected, Bryant has been a regular fixation for cameramen looking for crowd shots and media members looking for interviews.
Along with announcing he is fully fit, Bryant also recently revealed soccer is his favorite sport, which is odd considering he has put together nearly two-decades of study and execution in the NBA. Predictably, Bryant’s love for the sport can be traced to his childhood in Italy.
When asked to pick a side between Italy and the United States should the two teams meet in a World Cup Final, Bryant visibly strained and ultimately said he would have to pick the USA. After all, Bryant is a former Olympian, so his love for the United States is hardly in question.
Incidentally, Bryant was not the only Laker down in Brazil for the World Cup, as Steve Nash turned up in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the tournament. Shortly thereafter, Nash could be seen with former Phoenix Suns teammate Leandro Barbosa. Nash attended Brazil’s opening match against Croatia and stuck around for a bit longer to enjoy all Brazil has to offer.
Nash has always been vocal about his love for soccer as well, and the Canadian point guard is scheduled to hold his annual charity soccer match in New York City on Jun. 25. That event will come only one day before the 2014 NBA Draft, where the Lakers are picking at no. 7. Early indication is that the Lakers will hold onto their pick rather than trade it away.
NBCLA attended predraft workouts at the LA Lakers' facility, and Marcus Smart and Julius Randle appear to be the early standouts who fit into the Lakers' lottery position.
It may be World Cup season for the moment, but after the NBA Draft, free agency will start, the Lakers will likely hire a coach and a picture of the upcoming season will begin to develop.