After passing Michael Jordan on the NBA's all-time scoring list and leading the Los Angeles Lakers to victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, a candid Kobe Bryant opened up about the historic experience and fielded a variety of questions:
On the Minnesota Timberwolves stopping Sunday's game to present Bryant with the game ball:
"I wasn't expecting the Timberwolves' organization to honor me like that. That was awesome. It felt great to have that. I didn't know what it was going to feel like. It's something that you pass off a little bit, but to have that reaction in that moment in time, I'd be lying if I said it didn't mean something."
"It was just a class move by them."
"It was different. I'm so used to being the villain all the time on the road (laughs). It took a minute to adjust, but I've got to say it felt good to be appreciated like that."
"I'm used to being the villain, so to have moments like that is like when you're not expecting a hug and you get a hug, and you're like, 'man, this actually feels pretty damn good.' "
On constantly playing the role of the villain:
"When it comes to basketball, that's just what I am naturally. I think the competitive nature is something that frightens a lot of people. When you peel back truly what's inside of a person to compete and be at that high level, it scares a lot of people that are comfortable just being average. I think if you look at Michael's retirement speech, people really got a chance to see how he ticks, and it scared a lot of people. That's the reality of it. You can't get to a supreme level without kind of channeling the dark side."
On hearing Earvin "Magic" Johnson had proclaimed him to be in the top 5 players of all time:
"To have that kind for respect from him, the player that I grew up idolizing, that's really what it's about for me...having the respect from those who've played and the greats that I've learned from. That's unbelievable."
"The most important thing to me is playing for the respect of the greats and feeling like I'm a part of that culture and a part of that brotherhood."
On whether the free throws he made to pass Jordan felt any different:
"A little bit. You get up there, and you're like, 'dude, the crowd's really waiting to see you score nine points, so don't F this up.'"
On nearing the end of his career:
"Now, I appreciate the game even more because it has a certain finality to it. When moments like this come around, you're really overjoyed by it. At the same time, you know that the end if pretty near, which is fine, too."
On his biggest influences for the fadeaway jump shot:
"Repetition. A lot of repetition. I learned a lot from Michael (Jordan) in terms of technique and a lot from Hakeem (Olajuwon)--same type of shot but different footwork...(Those) two are the ones that I've really learned the most from in terms of that fallaway (jump shot)."
On the advantage of adjusting his game while playing with the Lakers:
"It's fun to constantly try to figure out new things and things to do better. I'm very blessed to be with an organization where you have some of the greats of all time sitting right there, so at any given moment, you'll call them up and they'll come to practice and they'll work with you."
On Derek Jeter's farewell season:
"Derek (Jeter) and I are different people, so he just hides it better, but I guarantee you our competitive spirit is exactly the same. He just hides it better, or chooses to hide it. I don't choose to hide it."
How would you say you were able to score that many points?
"You got to love what you do, too. I love what I do, so it doesn't feel like I've worked a day in my life. I just love the learning. I love the challenge of it all."