Kobe Takes a Helicopter to Work

If you could use a helicopter to avoid traffic, wouldn't you?

Frank Heinz, NBCDFW.com

In Los Angeles, we will do anything to avoid traffic. Find surface street routes that wind through residential neighborhoods, stay at the gym for a couple hours after work, just avoid the 405 through West LA at all costs. Whatever it takes.

For Kobe Bryant, that means having a helicopter to commute to work.

This is how the 31-year-old co-captain of the Lakers, the eleven-time All-Star, the four-time world champion, the most prolific and accomplished scorer currently drawing breath and an NBA paycheck, commutes. He takes a private helicopter from Orange County, where he lives with his wife and two children, to every home game. It's a nice dash of glitz, a touch of showbiz that goes well with the Hollywood sign in the hazy distance. But sexy as it might seem, Bryant says the helicopter is just another tool for maintaining his body. It's no different than his weights or his whirlpool tubs or his custom-made Nikes. Given his broken finger, his fragile knees, his sore back and achy feet, not to mention his chronic agita, Bryant can't sit in a car for two hours. The helicopter, therefore, ensures that he gets to Staples Center feeling fresh, that his body is warm and loose and fluid as mercury when he steps onto the court.

If you make $23 million a year with your body, taking a helicopter to work is actually quite practical.

That may be my favorite line this year. I too, if I had $23 million, would commute to work via helicopter. Except for the part where I quit working because I had $23 million.

But Kobe doesn’t quit, because that’s not how he’s wired. He pushes himself to the extreme, not for the money but to satisfy himself. But that, in and of itself, is a simplistic way to look at Kobe that doesn’t fit the man.

What makes Kobe fascinating — and what former Los Angeles Times writer J.R. Moehringer tries to get to in this piece — is that you can’t sum up Kobe simply. We want our athletes to fit into neat little stereotypes, but Kobe is too complex a person to do that with. He is not simple, he takes time to understand, and even then you really don’t understand him completely.

The article traces Kobe’s career through his various injuries — up to and including his current broken finger that is “three different shades of purple and five kinds of black.” But that is just to tie the narrative together. The goal is to paint a portrait of a man that can’t be summed up on broad brush strokes. Kobe is both intellectual and simple, a loving man with an icy cold streak.

Read the article, you’ll have a better understanding of the man. But you won’t understand him.

Kurt Helin lives in Los Angeles and is the lead writer on NBC's NBA blog Pro Basketball Talk (which you can also follow in twitter).

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