Doing a sit-down interview with a high-profile athlete is a journalist’s dream.
It’s also a journalist’s nightmare.
“You always get concerned when you go in profiling somebody who’s been around for a long time and has been out there,” HBO Real Sports correspondent and CBS Sports Network We Need To Talk panelist Andrea Kremer said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “(You wonder), ‘What can I bring that’s different? I’ve read 700 pages of stuff on Kobe. Am I going to hear all the same stuff?’”
As it turns out, no. Kremer, who interviewed the reflective and insightful Bryant for HBO, saw a side of the Mamba she had never seen before – and so will you.
“When you hear things that you didn’t hear before, stories that you didn’t know existed, that always gives you a lot of gratification that you might be touching on stuff that is new,” Kremer said. “Certainly I think that we did uncover some things that were fresh and new. I’m proud that we were able to do that for the show.”
Kremer interviewed, among others, Gary Vitti, the longtime Lakers trainer who has seen every NBA game in which Bryant has played. Vitti has seen a different Bryant this season – one who, at 37, has accepted that the game has passed him by.
“Kobe stopped beating his head against the wall about winning that sixth championship,” Kremer said. “It wasn’t going to happen, and once he could accept that – as difficult as it was – it just made him a lot easier to be around. As Vitti says, he only bit off three heads a week, not 20. Gary said it’s the happiest he’s ever seen him in 20 years.”
Kremer saw the difference as well.
“A lot of times when you talk to people and they are defensive about things, they laugh,” Kremer said. “It’s just a mechanism they use. I think when Kobe laughs at how he can’t levitate anymore, how his jump-shot just doesn’t have that, he laughs because what’s he going to do about it? But in Kobe fashion, he’s still going to keep shooting. So he knows that his body just will not do what it has done in the past.”
Bryant, who is averaging 17.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists this season, is already planning for life after basketball. In fact, he founded his own company, Kobe Inc., while sitting out in 2013-14 with a torn Achilles.
“He said he wants to tell stories in a creative way through various mediums,” Kremer said. “Movies, games, video games, books – you name it. He is putting in the same passion for basketball, the same drive and time and hard work, into this new business. Now, he is breaking into one of the hardest businesses that we possibly know of – the entertainment business – but he is convinced that he is going to make this transition.”
Bryant once said that he wanted to sit at the same table as Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Well, now he wants to sit at the same table as J.K. Rowling, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs and composer John Williams. In fact, he has portraits of those people hanging in his California office.
“This is who he wants to be,” Kremer said. “These are his new inspirations.”