He might be playing limited minutes on Monday night, but Kobe Bryant arrived in London on Friday in a positive frame of mind, as the five-time NBA champion was at the Lillian Baylis Old School in Lambeth, South London.
Bryant took part in a Nike associated camp, that featured over 100 young British basketball prospects aged from 15-20, as the city of London continued it’s improved grassroots participation and playing opportunities, as it aims to deliver a legacy of basketball in the build-up to the 2012 Olympic Games.
There were various drills that the kids were being put through – with Kobe looking on and getting heavily involved on the coaching side as well, with the youngsters hanging on his every word.
“The critical component is them (youth players) understanding the beauty within the game.” Bryant pinpointed.
“I’ve seen players with a lot of talent and they are psychically gifted, with height, athleticism. So the big key is for us to have clinics and have these things to continue to teach them, I think that is how you grow it.” Bryant continued.
The kids involved in this camp are part of the London School of Basketball, which currently involves eight boroughs of London, each boroughs has an assigned coach. Lambeth, Southwark, Brent, Croydon, Hackney, Barking, Islington and Sutton are the eight that are apart of LSB, with another three to be added hopefully before the 2012 Olympics.
Bryant is here though on business – and on Monday night, the Los Angeles Lakers will square off against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the O2 Arena, where he expects to play limited minutes despite having knee surgery during the summer. The all-star guard though is hoping to take to the floor at the sold-out venue.
“I’m just looking to improve on some of the things we have been working on in camp.” Bryant said.
“This is the beginning of a long process, you want to start the process off right and play in the right way and try and figure how you do things – and this starts now.”
The reigning NBA champions will be looking to give Laker rookies, Steve Blake and Matt Barnes extended minutes on Monday. Fitting in to a new team is hard enough, but fitting into a Lakers squad that has been together for many years is as complex as it comes.
Bryant dismissed that though: “its easy.” he commented.
“The majority of our team speaks the language and we have all been together – when you bring in new guys, they will be around the game, how we talk about the game and how we communicate about the games – it’s a different language – and they pick up on that and mature with us as the season goes on.” Kobe explained, as he spoke about the new players on the Lakers roster.
Kobe was part of the Redeem Team that won the Gold medal at Beijing Olympics in 2008. But due to knee surgery, Bryant didn’t travel with the Redeem Team, version two – to Turkey, as USA went undefeated to win the World Championship in Istanbul – and many people have been suggesting that the team that won in mid-September should be the team that take to the court in two years time in London.
“I have no problems with that. I think (Jerry) Colangelo’s done a great job, when you look at the roster we had, the team we had at the Worlds, people said that team is not going to do it, and now that they won, people are saying: well that needs to be the same team. That’s just how it is.” Bryant complimented
“I was very proud.” Kobe said, commenting on USA’s win at the World Championships – continuing: “They were young and they were up against some very experienced teams from other countries, and they kept their composure and they played together on both ends of the floor – couldn’t be more prouder.”
Fans of the man they call Mamba had their chance to ask their hero questions as well. Predictably the question of could you beat LeBron James in a straight one-on-one game came up to sarcastic cheers.
Always honest Kobe stunned most of us with a straight answer: “I’d win, I’d win. That’s what I do. One-on-one is. that’s easy for me, you know. Playing one-on-one is how I grew up playing, it’s like my thing. LeBron is more like a Magic Johnson – he’s a great passer and plays an all around game. At the core of me, I’m a one on one player. I’d do that in my sleep.”
John Hobbs for TalkBasket.net
Kobe Bryant was opening the London School of Basketball in Lambeth. Thanks to Simon Wainwright and all at Nike.