Kobe Explains Why He Doesn’t Have Friends
There's an awesome interview with Kobe Bryant in GQ today, written by the great Chuck Klosterman. Along with "Kobe: The Interview" on NBATV, Kobe appears to be on something of a PR kick this week -- almost as if to say, I'm not in the All-Star Game, but I'm still the most important person in the league. He even competes for headlines. Mamba mentality.
There's one segment of the interview in particular that's striking, and will inevitably be picked up by the blogosphere as another sign that, ha ha, Kobe is so crazy, look at how little he cares about anything but basketball (aaaaaaand Deadspin has posted it). Klosterman asks him about having friends:
So how much are you willing to give up? Have you given up the possibility of having friends? Do you have any friends?
I have "like minds." You know, I've been fortunate to play in Los Angeles, where there are a lot of people like me. Actors. Musicians. Businessmen. Obsessives. People who feel like God put them on earth to do whatever it is that they do. Now, do we have time to build great relationships? Do we have time to build great friendships? No. Do we have time to socialize and to hangout aimlessly? No. Do we want to do that? No. We want to work. I enjoy working.
So is this a choice? Are you actively choosing not to have friends?
Well, yes and no. I have friends. But being a "great friend" is something I will never be. I can be a good friend. But not a great friend. A great friend will call you every day and remember your birthday. I'll get so wrapped up in my shit, I'll never remember that stuff. And the people who are my friends understand this, and they're usually the same way. You gravitate toward people who are like you. But the kind of relationships you see in movies—that's impossible for me. I have good relationships with players around the league. LeBron and I will text every now and then. KG and I will text every now and then. But in terms of having one of those great, bonding friendships—that's something I will probably never have. And it's not some smug thing. It's a weakness. It's a weakness.
Now, if you just read these two questions and answers, you might think Kobe was playing the tough guy, saying he doesn't need friends because he doesn't have the time. But, starting with those last three words, twice repeated ("It's a weakness. It's a weakness.") and going into the next question, you realize -- he's admitting that he wishes it were different. This next part would be crushing if it was spoken by anyone else, but because it's Kobe, we think, "Oh, well, it turned out fine for him, whatever."
Do you miss the idea of having a great friendship?
Of course. It's not like I'm saying, 'I don't need friends because I'm so strong.' It's a weakness. When I was growing up in Italy, I grew up in isolation. It was not an environment suited to me. I was the only black kid. I didn't speak the language. I'd be in one city, but then we'd move to a different city and I'd have to do everything again. I'd make friends, but I'd never be part of the group, because the other kids were already growing up together. So this is how I grew up, and these are the weaknesses that I have.
You probably know somebody like this, who moved around a lot as a kid and never got the chance to make close friends, or learn how to form bonds with people because whatever relationship they had would soon be severed. It explains a lot about Kobe. He doesn't not have friends because he wants to be great -- he wants to be great because he doesn't have friends. There's a difference. And when basketball is over for him, he may feel the strain of that weakness more acutely than ever before. In fact, just by opening up about it, we see that process has already begun.
Photo via Getty
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