This first appeared in the June 11 edition of The Washington Post’s NBA newsletter, the Monday Morning Post Up. You can subscribe by clicking here.
Kobe Bryant has a simple message for those who have poked fun at his new show: Don’t waste your time.
“It’s just not for them,” Bryant said in a phone interview last week. “They have simple minds. The show is not for simple-minded people, the people that do that sort of stuff. They’ve got to grow up. We’re looking at this show from a deeper level.”
That was in response to a question about the “Kobe curse” — a phenomenon that has developed over the course of the 10-episode installment of the first season of “Detail,” Bryant’s new show for ESPN’s new digital streaming service, ESPN+.
The “curse” refers to the fact that, of the eight episodes that focused on an individual player (the first was on Game 6 of the 2009 Western Conference finals, when Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets; another was on both LeBron James and Kevin Durant before the NBA Finals), the final six episodes saw the featured player lose the next game after the show aired.
Naturally, as the losses piled up, the Internet began to take notice and the comments began to flow, culminating with someone joking on Twitter about Bryant putting a curse on both James and Durant before the Finals.
In response, Bryant quote-tweeted it, accompanied by one hashtag: “#growup.”
“Like I said in the open, this show is not meant to entertain,” Bryant added. “I give you that disclaimer. This show is for athletes, man. It’s for people that want to be serious athletes, people that want to be serious basketball players. It’s for them. The majority of people will pick up on that, will understand it, will see areas that they can improve in and learn from, and athletes will as well, and others will just continue to be simple-minded.”
That wasn’t the only Bryant tweet during the playoffs that captured people’s attention. After James carried the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the Eastern Conference playoffs and returned to the NBA Finals for the eighth straight season, the latest round of the endless debate over who is better between James and Michael Jordan began anew.
Bryant, though, had something else to say, tweeting: “We can enjoy one without tearing down one. I love what he’s doing. Don’t debate what can’t be definitively won by anyone.” That was followed by three hashtags: #enjoymy5, #enjoymj6, #enjoylbjquest.
It seemed to many like a way for Bryant to insert himself into a conversation about who was better — something that Bryant, again, went back at a Twitter user for doing shortly thereafter.
Which led to another question: How does Bryant, an undisputed legend of the game, determine one player is better than another?
“I don’t,” Bryant said. “Ranking is for simple-minded people. I don’t do that. I don’t do the ranking. If this is a match of being … in a playoff series against somebody, we’re playing against LeBron or matched up with MJ, my concern is not MJ. My concern is how he affects the group and how to break that team apart. To do what? To win the championship. It’s not about being better than MJ or putting up better numbers than LeBron. It’s not about that. I don’t concern myself with the ranking and all that stuff. It doesn’t make any sense to me. We’re here for one thing only, and that’s to win.”
That answer provided a look at how Bryant views the world: through winning. Anyone who watched him with the Lakers through his two decades in the sport saw his single-mindedness when it came to basketball and how he felt he — and everyone around him — should be playing it.
And given how so much of his career was viewed through the prism of chasing Jordan — even more than it has been for James — it came as no surprise that how he viewed that chase came down to that same viewpoint.
“The goal was simple,” Bryant said. “How I measured that was, ‘I have to win more.’ I mean, for me, that’s what it was. Magic [Johnson] won a bunch, [Larry] Bird won a bunch, Michael won a bunch. My focus as a kid growing up: ‘Okay, I have to lead my organization to winning multiple championships like Magic did, like MJ did.’ That was the thing for me.”
Which brings us back to “Detail,” a show Bryant created to try to take people inside the mind of one of the all-time greats of the game as he’s watching film of today’s players. As Bryant indicated, the show isn’t for the faint of heart; there is no introduction and there are no breaks. It is 22 minutes of film study.
And now that the first season of the show is over, Bryant said he’s satisfied with how it turned out.
“We’re extremely happy,” he said. “We’re very happy with how it’s come out and what the response has been to it. We’re all pretty thrilled about it, and also the opportunity of other minds and other experts in your fields doing similar things. It’s just very exciting for this next generation of athletes to be able to have access to such experienced minds and to be able to learn from them at a much, much younger stage to … speed up their learning curve.”
You did read that right: Bryant said “minds” when talking about the next generation of athletes having access to stars of today, and yesterday, dispensing wisdom on how they watch the game and what they see in today’s players. His goal, though he said nothing has been agreed to yet with ESPN, is to expand the series beyond him talking about basketball.
“We’re already planning ahead,” he said. “We’re looking at taking ‘Detail’ and expanding it actually and moving ‘Detail’ into other sports.”
So, for example, Peyton Manning could break down film of quarterbacks, or Barry Bonds could break down someone’s batting stance.
Those episodes, presumably, wouldn’t be for simple-minded folks, either — although NFL QBs might want to avoid appearances before a playoff game, just to be safe.
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