Kobe reflects on Garden record, Olympics, wheelchair basketball

Main Line Times                              www.mainlinemedianews.com

By David Block

(Editor’s note — Main Line Media News sportswriter David Block interviewed Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant five days after the Lower Merion graduate broke the Madison Square Garden single-game scoring record, tallying 61 points in a win against the New York Knicks.)

ARDMORE — When Kobe Bryant broke the Madison Square Garden scoring record earlier this month, he was trying to go one-up on Spike Lee.

In an exclusive interview with Main Line Media News earlier this month, Bryant said, “Spike Lee was there at the game and I had to see him afterwards because we’re working on a project together. I wanted to make sure that I had the bragging rights and not him. Him being there was more motivation [to break the record].”

Garden party

Bryant scored 61 points in a win against the New York Knicks Feb. 2 at Madison Square Garden, surpassing Bernard King’s Madison Square Garden record of 60, set Dec. 25, 1984 while playing for the New York Knicks.

Madison Square Garden was also the site (Dec. 23, 2007) where Bryant went down in the record books as being the third NBA player to score his 2 0,000th point before turning 30. The other two were Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan.

Bryant said that the 61-point experience was incredibly special because he did it at Madison Square Garden: “There’s so much history in Madison Square Garden, and for me to accomplish a few historical things in that building itself makes it even more special. It’s the last one left in terms of historic venues in terms of historic venues in which NBA games are played.

There was the Forum; the Boston Garden, but they’re gone. Madison Square Garden is the last of the great arenas that’s left.”

Bryant also said that winning the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games at Beijing was more meaningful than winning his three NBA Championships (2000, 2001 and 2002).

Olympic feat

“In the Olympics,” said Bryant, “you’re playing for the United States of America. You’re not playing for a league or a state. The significance of competing in the Olympics cannot be overstated. The joy of playing in the Olympics was to see other athletes do what they do best. That was incredible in itself, to see Michael Phelps swim, and to see the best runners and volleyball players.”

Bryant, who turned 30 Aug. 23 during the Summer Games, was thrilled that his wife Vanessa and his two daughters, Natalia Diamante (age 6) and Gianna Maria-Onore (2), were in the stands waving American flags.

Two years ago, some wheelchair basketball players invited Bryant to scrimmage with them. After sitting down in a wheelchair and after the game began, Bryant had a rude awakening.

I wasn’t very good at all,” Bryant said. “I couldn’t keep up with them. I got a greater appreciation for the athleticism of what the do. You have to be incredibly talented and strong to be able to do that.”

Bryant still keeps in touch with the Lower Merion boys’ basketball teams, and always provides them with encouragement.

Asked why he still cares about the LM team, Bryant replied, Because it’s home…I wanted to come back to the Main Line last summer but couldn’t. I hope to come back this summer. I miss everything about the Main Line — my old stomping grounds, walking the streets, going to different restaurants, hanging out and playing ball. Seeing those places again brings back so many memories.

Asked to name his favorite Main Line restaurants and hangouts, Bryant laughed and refused to disclose them.

“I want to keep them my spots,” Bryant said.

For a complete transcript of Main Line Media News’ exclusive interview with Kobe Bryant, visit our Web site, www mainlinemedianews.com.