For one rare night, Kobe Bryant sounded like the young kid that took Los Angeles by storm, rather than the aching superstar two weeks shy of retirement.
"I'm really a big teddy bear," Bryant spoke on Tuesday night at an exclusive American Express Teamed Up event for card members in Los Angeles. "When I don't play, I'm not the 'Black Mamba.' [I'm] pretty chill, a human jungle gym for my kids."
After playing with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night at Staples Center and Monday night in Utah, Bryant turned up at L.A. Live for the special event on Tuesday night, before he expects to suit up for a game against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
With only two weeks remaining in his NBA career, Bryant doesn't appear to be taking nights off on the court or off it, and on this night, the 37-year-old joined his former Lakers' teammates Rick Fox and Robert Horry to put together an entertaining night for fans that featured storytelling and friendly jabs from the trio of champions.
Alongside Fox, 46, and Horry, 45, Bryant looked like the young buck that won three titles in his early 20s. And the two older teammates shared meaningful memories of Bryant during his formative years in the NBA.
"I played with hall of famers, and I watched these guys in practice," Horry, who also won titles with Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston and Tim Duncan in San Antonio, said about Bryant. "Kobe is the hardest working guy that I ever played with."
Horry provided Hall-of-Fame perspective, "I would watch [Olajuwon] in practice. 'Dream' would always work on his spin moves and stuff, work on the same things over and over, making that part of his game better. I would watch Tim Duncan in practice working on that bank shot all the time. But this guy (Bryant), oh, we know his baseline, right-hand fadeaway jumper is nice. I never saw him work on that because he knew he had that in his game."
Horry explained further, "But was his [sic] threes good at the time? No. He was working on his threes. Was his left-hand game good? No. He was working on it. He always worked on stuff he could not do, and that's [where] the appreciation and love I have for Kobe comes [from] because he was just growing as a player, evolving as a player."
While Bryant's farewell tour has primarily focused on his accomplishments and achievements, the presence of Horry and Fox allowed for a unique opportunity to view Bryant as a young kid in the eyes of veteran players that watched him developing into one of the all-time great players in NBA history.
"You were obviously working with something else under the hood, so harnessing that yourself had to be difficult," Fox said to Bryant at one point and then launched into a story. "We're in a preseason game and you came off the bus. You had 28 points in the fourth quarter after not playing the first three quarters, and you shared that you thought you could go for 73 (points)."
Fox added, "And I'll never forget that because that's what was under the hood. You knew it. To us, to me it sounded—I'm thinking to myself, 'How're you going to get to 73?' Then, obviously, you knew. And eventually, we saw that, time and time over again."
Fox likened the relationship he and the other veterans on those early Lakers' championship teams had with Bryant as being "parents," and Horry and Fox spent the night telling the types of embarrassing stories one would expect from a proud mom and dad gushing about their perfect son.
Of course, the 37-year-old Bryant was no longer the spry 21-year-old kid: "I'm losing my hearing."
Host Kristen Ledlow popped back, "You're not that old!"
Bryant quickly found an excuse, "From the arenas."