This is an article from the Dec. 17, 2012 issue
The 34-year-old Lakers' star became the youngest NBA player to score 30,000 points, on Dec. 5. Bryant was the league's leading scorer though Saturday with 28.4 points per game.
DAN PATRICK:Do you remember your first basket in the NBA?
KB: I think I was in Boise, Idaho, for a preseason game against the Dallas Mavericks.
DP:Anything special about it?
KB: Eddie Jones gave me the assist. In high school he used to look out for me. He was at Temple and let me work out with the guys.
DP:What advice would today's Kobe give that Kobe?
KB: Stretch. Stretch. Stretch. And stretch some more.
DP:Describe the pressure on a scorer to put up points every night.
KB: It's a mentality that starts at an early age. You have to have a certain DNA. It's almost like being a fighter pilot. Scorers are wired a little differently.
DP:When you recall the time you scored 81 against Toronto, what stands out?
KB: The crazy part about that game is that I was able to have pepperoni pizza before it. If I had pepperoni pizza before a game now, I wouldn't be able to move in the first quarter. I'd be done.
DP:What do you eat before a game now?
KB: Salmon, greens and potatoes.
DP:Bulls players talked about Michael Jordan giving them the stare if they messed up. Is that something you do?
KB: I got a lot of flak for my quote-unquote death stare. I think it was blown out of proportion. You want your teammates to keep up with your level of intensity and commitment. I don't think it's proper leadership to pull yourself down so you can make yourself more relatable. I think it's the other way around. You have to push and push and push.
DP:Can you motivate Pau Gasol with words?
KB: It worked for two championships. I know him extremely well. I know how to communicate with him either publicly or behind closed doors.
DP:Earlier in the season you told fans not to overreact to the Lakers' slow start. Is it time to be nervous?
KB: It's fine to be nervous. Having that panic button drives you—as opposed to just writing it off and saying it will turn around.
DP:Do you have your sights on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's scoring record [of 38,387 points]?
KB: I don't know about that, bro.
DP:How about Michael at 32,292?
KB: Depends on how many years I have left. Last season was tough for me. It was the first time in the off-season I didn't know if I wanted to train as hard. One morning I woke up and the desire was there and off I went. It's tough when you get to 17 years with no breaks.
DP:How is your role different under Mike D'Antoni than it was under Mike Brown?
KB: I do a lot more ball handling right now because the Gatsby is out.
DP:You're obviously talking about Steve Nash. What do you think of his haircut?
KB: It's working for him. I used to see him when he was injured in Phoenix and he dressed like a trucker. Now he wears three-piece suits, a little hanky in the pocket. He went full-blown Great Gatsby.
Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez told me he didn't expect coach Bret Bielema to suddenly announce he was leaving for Arkansas. "I'm a little surprised that I didn't have some indication that he was going to talk [to another school]," Alvarez said. "But I understand the business." ... Bret Bielema, who had been the Badgers' coach for seven years, explained why he didn't reach out to Alvarez before accepting his new job. "I needed to take it before I saw him," Bielema said. "I know how convincing he can be." ... USC quarterback Matt Barkley commented on how the preseason hype affected the Trojans this season. "We had high expectations," Barkley told me, "but the media expected us to win every single game by 50 points in stylish fashion. It didn't happen according to plan. As a team it affected us a little too much." ... I asked Archie Manning if winning an MVP would be extra special for Peyton after coming back from an injury with a new team. "I don't know," Archie said. "He's got a house full of them."