This afternoon, five-time NBA Champion Kobe Bryant spoke with media on a conference call about the upcoming NBA Playoffs and Detail, ESPN’s new basketball analysis show from Bryant’s Granity Studios. Detail debuts tomorrow, April 12, exclusively on ESPN+, the new direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service from Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International in partnership with ESPN.
Additional information on Detail is available on ESPN Media Zone.
To listen to the media call, click here
Below is a transcript from the call.
Q. I know championships have always been at the forefront in the NBA, but it seems like it’s almost at a fever pitch of people discussing players in terms of the rings they’ve won. Do you think that’s gotten overblown or are championships the name of the game and it’s an appropriate thing for people to focus on so much?
KOBE BRYANT: I think it’s situational. Obviously, you have individual players who have been phenomenal, have had amazing careers, but haven’t won a championship, right? I think we all know that.
But the name of the game is to win championships, right? It’s different in most other team sports where an individual can really inspire, challenge, lead, make big plays, get big stops, to be able to lead a team to victory. You can’t do it alone, you have to have great teammates, whether it’s Magic and Kareem, James Worthy, or Pippen, or Shaquille, whatever the case may be.
Individually you have great players who haven’t had the great fortune of winning championships, but by and large I don’t think it’s unfair to put that pressure on winning championships because that is the name of the game, to win championships.
Q. What is your goal in terms of what you’re doing in media? You’ve taken a different route than others.
BRYANT: For Detail in particular, I felt like it’s important for the next generation to learn how to watch film, how to study the game. I felt like if this show was around when I was 10 years old, 11 years old, I would have gained so much insight, so much value from it, that by the time I’m 22, 25, my knowledge of the game would be at a much, much higher level than my predecessors.
I feel like it’s part of my responsibility to give back to the next generation, try to share and teach some of the things I have learned from some of the great players, great mentors, greats coaches that I’ve had.
That’s the idea of the show, is to show the next generation, players that are currently playing, as well as players that aspire to be there one day, my process of watching film at its smallest detail, and hopefully they can pull something from that. That’s the goal.
Q. Where is your level of interest of one day being a traditional analyst, like Shaq or Barkley?
Q. Why so?
BRYANT: Because I love what I’m doing now. I love coming to the office writing, editing, creating. Building a studio is no small task. It’s all encompassing. I just don’t have the time to sit at a studio and do that.
If that was my passion, to be able to sit at a studio desk, do that day in, day out, I would certainly do it. That’s not my passion. My passion is writing, creating, putting beautiful stories together, weaving them in the form of a narrative.
That’s what you’ll see in Detail. It’s hard to explain until you see it. Yes, it’s a basketball analysis show, but the way it’s woven together, you’ll actually see the natural narratives that are there in a playoff series. We just kind of bring those to the light in terms of how it actually affects the outcome of plays and a series.
Q. Given the way the game has gone over the past couple of decades, with the emphasis on spacing, in particular on bigs, the way every team is built now, how has Dirk Nowitzki impacted the sport over the past couple decades?
BRYANT: Dirk kind of went the opposite way. When he first came in the league, he took a lot of threes. The year they won championships he might have taken half the threes than when he first came in the league.
The idea of having a guy that was 7′, 7’1″ that could stretch the floor, that was revolutionary. I’m sure it inspired a lot of bigs to be able to say, You know what, I want to be like Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk, he was looking at guys like Arvydas Sabonis, Vlade Divac, guys like that.
Dirk obviously took it to a different level because of his mobility, the ability to put the ball on the floor and spin. But by and large, when Dirk won that championship that year, the biggest problem we had with him, that Miami and all the other teams had with him, wasn’t his picking and popping, it was his ability to play at the free-throw line and below the free-throw line. For him, that was his biggest growth as a player.
Q. How do you see the Playoffs shaking out? Who do you think is going to win the championship this year?
BRYANT: I try to stay out of the business of clairvoyance-y. I kind of look at the raw picture of what I see in front of me from the execution standpoint. Obviously, a lot of it depends on the health of Golden State. Houston have put themselves in prime position with their length, versatility, their speed, their aggressiveness. They’re a very aggressive team. It’s a more aggressive team than D’Antoni has had. Phoenix, they play with a lot of speed, but none of those guys are naturally physical. Houston has some real physical players, man. I like where they’re at.
Cleveland obviously with LeBron, the shooting they have around him, some of the youth they infused that team with is obviously going to be dangerous. Curious to see what Toronto does. Kyrie going down makes a big difference in the Eastern Conference.
I like Houston and Golden State, pending their health, as being my top two favorites. Like I said, I kind of stay out of the business of predictions.
Q. What is the one thing from an analysis standpoint that you are going to be most interested to see during these playoffs?
BRYANT: Well, I’m just looking at it from the perspective if I was a player, right? If I was Harden in the series, I just played this game, I’m watching the film, what would I be looking at. It’s basically me going back to my old ways of watching film, how I was breaking down series when I was playing. That’s that.
Q. Will you have the ability or capability to do interviews with players after games? Will you be weaving what they say about their performance or will it be strictly your observations? That being the case, what stories do you think you’re most interested in telling specifically about the Rockets, Chris Paul, James Harden, others on that team?
BRYANT: Yeah, so no, there are no interviews. There’s no desk. There’s nothing of that sort. I want the viewer to have the experience of watching film, right? What you see on the screen is what I’m breaking down.
There aren’t really stories that I’m fascinated with telling in terms of like Chris’ performance in a playoff with Houston, how they’re meshing together, Golden State’s health. I don’t care anything about that.
The only thing I care about, I’m James Harden, we just played game one, what do I need to focus on and learn from game one that will help us in game two? What could we do better in game one? What do we need to look for that our opposition could counter with in game two, right? It’s that level of detail that this show is about.
The name ‘Detail’ was pulled for a very specific reason. This is content that might not be for everyone, right? It’s really at the smallest, smallest level of basketball breakdown to try to advance in a series.
Q. Will it be a clicker show, you can take a play back a few frames, that sort of thing?
Q. As you’re morphing into this media world, doing these new projects, obviously your basketball career speaks for itself, for the past month has the fact you’re now an Oscar winner kind of added to your credibility in that world?
BRYANT: Yeah, for sure. I mean, it certainly added to it. It’s been an amazing journey. I think the important thing for me is to establish myself within this industry as a serious creator. I mean, I can write. I can edit. I can produce. I can do those things at a serious level. It’s not something that’s kind of a one-time passion sort of thing. It’s just something that we do every single day.
Winning an Academy Award certainly helps with that, right? It wasn’t something that I just attached my name to as an executive producer, which most people tend to do. This is something I gave birth do. This is something I actually wrote. This is something that I went out and called Glen and got Glen onboard, called John, got John or board, worked with that vision.
It feels good to be able to have that recognition in that way.
Q. Where is your Oscar?
BRYANT: I have it in my house. It’s sitting right next to the Emmy award we’ve won, as well. I look at them every morning before I go to work.
Q. Kobe, you mentioned quickly the Kyrie injury. I wanted your thoughts on players such as Kyrie electing to have surgery, the Kawhi Leonard situation where players have seen what happened to Isaiah Thomas, are looking towards their long-term health as opposed to playing hurt. Also I wanted to get your thoughts on Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum, what you think of his game.
BRYANT: Firstly, what I’ve always tried to do is get second opinions, always. I was part of an amazing franchise with the Lakers, right? But still when you’re dealing with matters of your body and your future, I think it’s important to have second opinions.
You have team doctors, which are excellent. We’re very fortunate to have some of the best in the world. But still it’s important to have second and sometimes third opinions on things so you can then make your decision as opposed to being in the dark and just trusting blindly a decision that’s being made by a doctor. That’s one.
Then two, if the injury is going to compromise your future as a basketball player, like your health, if this is something that’s going to get worse, this is something that can inhibit you long-term, you don’t play on it, you just don’t do it.
The injuries I had were injuries I could actually play through. It wasn’t going to get worse to the point where it was damaging my career long-term. It was things that were kind of short-term, I could play through it. It hurts like crazy, but it is what it is, right?
Those are the decisions I tried to make as it pertains to injuries.
As far as Jayson Tatum, his game is really well flushed out. Great midrange game, he can post up. He can finish at the rim. He handles the ball very well. He can shoot the long ball. I think there’s still little itty-bitty things that he’ll need to develop as his game progresses, defenses tend to double him more to catch up to him.
By and large, I love what I’m seeing from him, especially on the defensive end. Most young players coming nowadays just want to do the cute stuff. He seems to be the kind of player that doesn’t mind getting dirty and being physical and playing hard at both ends of the floor.
Jalen Brown is like that, too. I think very highly of Jalen Brown, too.
Q. What inspires you to continue to reinvent yourself and stay on top of everything you decide to do? Kind of on the healthcare question, but it’s more on opioids, how you managed your pain level throughout your injury.
BRYANT: I follow my passion, things that I love to do, like writing and storytelling, I enjoy that. I don’t find myself having to remind myself to work hard and push myself to stay on top of things because I just love doing it. I can’t wait to get to the studio every day, work with the team, write, create, concept, develop. I just enjoy doing that. I don’t really look at it so much as reinvention as my career as a basketball player was over, I loved storytelling, so here I am.
As far as handling the pain threshold, it goes back to the question earlier. Sometimes you have injuries where you just have to deal with the pain. It’s not going to get any worse, but you have to deal with the pain.
When I fractured my finger, there was nothing else that could be done. We put it back in place, still fractured, it was going to hurt like crazy, but it wasn’t going to get worse. No ligament structures were damaged, tendons, nothing like that. At that point you have to make a call: suck it up and play or sit out and get it fixed right then and there. That’s typically how I handled it.
Q. You were so competitive as a player. I was wondering if this time of year is hard for you to watch basketball, if that competitiveness comes out in you? Do you find ways to channel it, like this new show?
BRYANT: No, not at all. I don’t have a hard time watching it at all. This is where me and Michael differ a lot. Where I was going through the process of retirement, I think people were kind of assuming Michael and I behave the same way from a competitive standpoint. We’re both ridiculously competitive, but it’s different to a point, right?
I have this other thing that is calling me that I enjoy doing. I’m completely focused on that. I can watch a game, feel nothing at all. There’s no angst, there’s no, Man, I want to get back out there. There’s literally zero of that.
Now when I watch the game, I watch it from the perspective that I’m looking at things that are happening, things that my mind can process from years and years of studying film. But now I’m just taking that information and applying it in artful way to the show Detail.
Thank God I haven’t completely struggled watching playoffs. I’d be going crazy, dude. So fortunate enough for me, like, I’ve really been able to move on from the game.
Q. You hear a lot about a team like the Cavaliers, LeBron James flipping a switch when the playoffs come. In your experience, how do you prepare for that? How difficult is it to go to a new level in the playoffs?
BRYANT: Here is a thing about flipping the switch. Flipping the switch is just another word for you have one team that you’re focusing on, so you can really zero in on that team. That’s all that is. You’re still playing just as hard, you’re doing all the things, but playoffs means if you have one team to focus on, that means you can study all your regular season matchups against them, you can learn all the information you need to learn to prepare yourself for this playoff series. That’s flipping the switch.
Then from the Cleveland standpoint, Cleveland seems to be executing a more democratic style of offense. I did a piece last year or a couple years ago, maybe last year, about the two kings system that the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing with, LeBron and Kyrie, and contrast that with Golden State’s democracy. If you watch Cleveland play now, they’re starting to play with a more democratic system, see LeBron at the elbow at the top of the key being the Draymond Green of the Cavs, while the other players, whether it’s Jordan Clarkson or Kevin Love are running corner split games, playing a rip action, doing stuff on the weak side where they’re moving off the ball. That makes them infinitely more dangerous.
Q. It seems like the tension between the players and the referees is at an all time high this season. Do you think that’s the case? If you were the NBA dictator, what rules would you change about the game and why?
BRYANT: I’d allow for more physicality in the game. I’d allow for hand checking, things like that. I feel like European basketball is more physical than the NBA is right now. I think the NBA needs to be more physical. Not to the sense of the way the Pistons were playing where guys are literally fearing for their safety when they’re up in the air, not that kind of basketball. But something where you’re not getting called for a body check or light hand check or things like that. I think just makes the game ridiculous. It trickles down to NCAA. I could barely watch some of these games in the NCAA because, like, a player touches a guy with a thumb and it’s a foul in a situation where it’s costing them the game. That type of stuff drives me crazy. That would be the first thing I’d change.
Q. You don’t think the game is physical enough, you think that’s taking away from the experience for fans?
BRYANT: I think it needs to be more enjoyable. It’s more enjoyable if there’s a certain level of physicality. You get to see players go mano-a-mano a little bit instead of, Oh, my God, he put a hand on me, it’s a foul. That’s got to go, man.
It challenges players to improve their skill level, too. If you can hand check, things like that, you really must be fundamentally sound, you really must be able to handle the ball to get past defenders.
From the ref’s perspective, I think we’re looking at it the wrong way. The players having issues with referees, I get that 100%. But I think instead of us looking at the referee situation and saying they have personal vendettas, whatever the case may be, I think we also must look at the generational transition happening with officials as well.
Just like the NBA has players, one generation that comes in, next generation comes out, you have certain players feel like they show up, they play, you have old-school players that are like, You got to watch the film, prepare, study. I think the officials are going through a transition as well. Young officials come in, some want to do the work, some don’t want to do the work. Just like any other business, you have some that want to pay attention to the smallest of detail, and some that do not.
It’s more for the officials that you have to figure out, how do you train, better prepare to get better officials. I’m sure that’s something they’re focused on.
Q. Do you think it’s getting better or worse in terms of officiating, foul calls?
BRYANT: Just like anything else, things got to get worse to get better, you know what I mean? Look, it’s a really, really tough job. It’s a really, really tough job, right? For officials that are doing their job to the highest, highest of levels, it means you never mention a name once in a broadcast. That should be every official’s goal.
But that is a really, really hard thing, man. There’s human error, there’s emotion, all kinds of shit going on. You can’t be distracted. You have to be in the moment every single second. It’s very hard. It’s very hard. They’ll make mistakes just like everybody else. They’ll get better at keeping to minimize those mistakes.
Q. You mentioned before when you were a player getting advice from veteran players and others in the game would have helped you as a younger player. In the industry you are now in, have you sought out or been given advice from directors, other people in the industry, Spielberg, your friend Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard?
BRYANT: Yeah, I have. I’ve been really, really fortunate from a story perspective, dealing with the likes of working with Glen Keane and John Williams. Aside from that, J.J. Abrams, George R.R. Martin, Oprah Winfrey, Shonda Rhimes, Steven Spielberg.
Ron Howard and I had dinner about a week ago. We spent about an hour and a half talking about film and process, all this other stuff.
Absolutely, man. I’ve been a sponge my whole career. It’s certainly not going to stop now.
Q. Are you going, “Wow, I’m sitting here with Spielberg” or are they going, “Wow, I’m sitting with Kobe?”
BRYANT: They say, Wow, I’m sitting here with Kobe. Are you shitting me? I’m sitting with Spielberg and Howard, sitting at Pixar talking with Pete Docter, Brad Bird. They’re telling me how wonderful basketball is, how did you write this thing. I know they don’t play around. If they don’t like something, they are cut and dry, they’ll tell you to your face the film was a piece of shit, here is why, here is how you can do it better.
For them to sit here saying, We love this film, it was excellent, that was the greatest thing ever. When you’re siting with Pete Docter, Brad Bird, Lee, who just won an Academy Award for Coco, that’s priceless.
Q. You mentioned some international players, sort of praised the fundamentals of international players. What are your impressions of rookie Ben Simmons. The other is a new Hall of Famer, Steve Nash. Your impressions of those two guys.
BRYANT: I think Ben played with a really great tempo. The time he’s had to watch the game has helped slow down the game for him. He’s had a chance to really observe the NBA game and be around it, pick it apart. Now that he’s playing, I think the game’s in slow motion for him, which is different than most rookies. He’s had a chance to view it a lot.
From a game perspective, his size gives him a clear advantage, his speed. He also knows how to use it. He knows his spots on the floor, he knows his strengths and weaknesses. He does a great job getting there.
I think his development will come in shooting obviously. At some point he’s got to be able to shoot that ball. Jason Kidd, when he came in the league, wasn’t a great shooter, but he worked to the point where he became one of the best three-point shooters we’ve had in our league in history. That will be his next progression.
That being said, even without that, he’s been able to dominate and take that city of Philadelphia to a place where it hasn’t been in a very long time.
Steve, I’m extremely happy for Steve. Steve, I remember he and I kind of being the outcasts there in that ’96 draft that nobody was really talking about. All the media were sitting around the top, big-name players. We would be sitting in the corner twiddling our thumbs.
So it’s great to fast forward to where he is now being a Hall of Famer, everything that he’s accomplished. It’s a true testament to hard work and intellect. He’s really studied the game. He’s figured out how to take what most scouts called weaknesses of his, turn those into absolute strengths. He’s just had a remarkable, remarkable career.
Q. Philadelphia and the Sixers, how much do you love them? What do you love about them? Marco Belinelli? Are you surprised how fast he fit in with the Sixers, how well he is playing? BRYANT: No, I’m not surprised at all. Marco has all the skills. He’s a thinker. He knows how to move off the ball. He knows how to use screens. Philadelphia, that’s what they need, because you have Embiid who commands teams wherever he is on the floor, you have Simmons who pushes the ball, puts a lot of pressure in the paint on defenses. From that perspective, you need players that can move off the ball with slice cuts, understanding when to backdoor, when to come off of a screen, catching, shooting. I’m not surprised at all how quickly he’s fit in.
I’m really, really happy for the city of Philadelphia. Obviously it’s been an amazing year of sports in Philly from the Eagles to Villanova, now Philly. I’m really, really excited for the city.