Basketball phenom Kobe Bryant covers the March 2010 issue of GQ. You can see the full article here but, for now, read the excerpts below:
ON HIS TATTOOS: His right arm is a permanent roster of his team, his home team. The names of his two daughters—Natalia, 7, Gianna, 3—are tattooed on the forearm. The name of his wife, Vanessa, is inscribed below the bulging deltoid.
Bryant discusses her with clipped, protective answers. Though their marriage has been tested—by infidelity, by gossip—he says it’s strong. Asked to name his best friends, he names her first. “We’re close,” he says. “We’re like homeys.”
In flowing script, between the children and Vanessa, he’s tattooed two words: Psalm XXVII. Why? “Because it’s beautiful,” he says.
In part, Psalm 27 reads: When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
ON HIS HUNGER TO WIN: He insists this win-at-all-costs mind-set doesn’t carry over to the rest of his life. “What people see on court is another side of me; it’s not me. That dark side that’s coming to get you—ha ha! I’m not losing this f****** game-that’s not who I am. That’s part of me. Off the court, I’m completely different.”
But, in almost the same breath he admits that a simple game of Cranium with his wife can turn into guerrilla warfare.
Cranium? The kids’ board game? With Sensosketches and Cloodles?
He purses his lips, nods his head slowly: No joke.
ON HIS GAME FACE: Teammate Derek Fisher, who entered the league with Bryant fourteen years ago, says few players have Bryant’s ability to tune out all distractions and dial up pure hi-def focus. “To process all that information rapidly and still make a decision in a fluid manner, not paralyzed by the analytical part of what they need to do—he’s the fastest at it that I’ve seen.”
Contrary to myth, Bryant says his mind isn’t empty at such moments. The zone is not a quiet place. He hears the same chatter everyone else hears, but he doesn’t react. He doesn’t fear. “If you make it, great. If you miss it—what’s there to be afraid of?”
“If you’re afraid to fail, then you’re probably going to fail,” he says, laughing. “You know what I mean? F*** it.”
ON HIS NAME: Bryant simply might not be capable of explaining himself. Deeply “curious” about basketball and about the larger world, he’s less inquisitive about Kobe Bryant. His name, for example. His parents named him Kobe after the high-priced Japanese beef. Why? Did they love Kobe beef? Were they eating it when they decided to conceive him?
“I don’t know,” he says.
You never asked? “No. If you ever figure out what that explanation is, let me know.”