Kobe Bryant parted the sea of reporters as he walked to the nameplate reading "Bryant" in the Los Angeles Lakers' locker room. Just as the quickly as the sea parted to allow the grizzled basketball nomad passage, it closed behind him. Once he started speaking, catching a glimpse of the retiring superstar meant angling under a camera or standing on tip toes to catch a clear sight over layers of vertically-challenged reporters.
On Sunday, Bryant likely gave his final interview in front of his locker, as longtime Lakers vice-president of public relations John Black pointed out to the press moments prior to Bryant entering the room.
Only four home games remain for Bryant with the Lakers, and all four expect to feature the 20-year professional sitting down on the podium in the press room to deal with hordes of media making special pilgrimages to cover the five-time champion's exit from basketball.
"I can't even see you," Bryant laughed at the reporter who informed him that he would likely never do a locker room interview again, as she was drowning in the sea of media. "Am I going to miss this? Probably, yea, I've done a lot of interviews standing in front of this locker."
Bryant added, "The one I'll always remember is the night I ruptured my Achilles."
Bryant's final four home games start with a nationally televised game against the Miami Heat on Wednesday, and the added NBATV media should force the Lakers to put Bryant in the interview room designed to allow for more cameras and provide seating for the media.
Then, the Lakers host the Boston Celtics, which is a rivalry game and should again force heightened media coverage. Following that, the Lakers host the Clippers, and the influx of LA media from both basketball teams means Bryant standing at his locker would lead to flooding of the locker room, so the 37-year-old will likely sit on the podium, rather than stand at his locker.
Finally, Bryant will feature on Apr. 13 against the Utah Jazz in a farewell game that has the Lakers' P.R. staff working overtime to manage media requests. In other words, Bryant's obligatory post-game question and answer session, which could feature a high tide of tears and emotion, will not take place in the Lakers' locker room.
Bryant reiterated that he intends to play every remaining game on the Lakers' schedule, "unless god forbid something drastic happens." Still, Bryant standing before his locker at Staples Center and answering questions appears to be one event that will not occur again.
In his typical smart-alecky style, Bryant told the assembled media on Sunday night, "Yea, I'll miss standing here and watching you elbow each other."