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June 5, 2004

Kobe Bryant


Q. What is your strongest memory of playing against Rip in high school?

KOBE BRYANT: I don't really have a memory per se of him and me matching up. It was more just the excitement of the game; it was sold out, no standing room, and my team won. Team won in overtime. I think we played each other three times. My team was fortunate enough to beat them all three times.

Q. Wasn't there also a team when you were teammates?

KOBE BRYANT: Yeah, we were teammates for three summers, AAU, we were teammates together, roomed together.

Q. Do you have memories of what it was like as a teammate or an anecdote about being roommates?

KOBE BRYANT: It was a lot of fun. We enjoy each other's company. We were really close. You know, he's a great guy. We had a great time playing together. Our team won almost every tournament we had. It was myself, Rip and we had a whole bunch of shooters around us. You know, we were just going around AAU camps and kicking butt. It was fun.

Q. Phil was just in here talking about this being the last chance for this group, and it's been talked about and he harped on it a couple of weeks ago when you were down to the Spurs, talking about the uncertain future of this team, how much have you guys talked about this, and you're a part of this yourself about whether this might be the last time we see this group in the venue in the Finals, do you talk about it at all, think about it at all, look around a little bit?

KOBE BRYANT: We don't talk about it much. We know the opportunity that we have in front of us right now, so we just want to capitalize on that. There is the possibility that this team will break up, won't have the same nucleus for next season, yeah, so it's important for us to go out and capitalize as much as we can in this situation.

Q. Do you see this the same way, that this is the last run of this group?

KOBE BRYANT: I don't know. It could be. I don't know. I don't like to think about it too much. Just take it a day at a time and give it our best effort here in this Finals.

Q. How have you been able to take the distractions that have been well documented and turn it into a motivation for you to get to this level, back to the Finals?

KOBE BRYANT: The motivation for me is just the game itself, just playing the game the right way and trying to win, compete every time I step out there on the floor. That's motivation enough for me to go out there and play well.

Q. There's a general feeling that if you guard Hamilton as the game wears on, you'll get tired and it might affect your shots offensively, do you have any concern in that regard?

KOBE BRYANT: A little bit. But I've played like that before, whether it's chasing Iverson around or chasing McGrady around. I'm up for the task. It is the Final pedastal, this is the final obstacle or hurdle, whatever you want to call it, and I think I'll be able to will myself through being tired.

Q. Again, about Richard and high school, was there a sense that he was an NBA player when you guys --

KOBE BRYANT: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, you could just see it. He had all the talent in the world. He had the work ethic. It's exciting for me to see him playing this well and the ultimate stage. It's rare to see somebody who was in the same district as you, you guys meet up in the NBA Finals, the biggest stage, the biggest stage in the world. It's exciting.

Q. If the Pistons --

KOBE BRYANT: I know who you expected to see in the Finals. (Laughter).

Q. If they indeed don't employ hack-a-Shaq, how much of a plus would that be for you all?

KOBE BRYANT: Well, I mean, there are certain degrees to hack-a-Shaq. The last series against hack-a-Shaq when he felt himself having to do it -- you know, it depends are they going to foul him, or they going to wrap him up and not give him an easy layup first quarter, second quarter or are they talking about just fouling Shaquille at the end of the ballgame. If they talk about that, that's a clear advantage to put him at the free throw line. We get a chance to execute on offense. Larry Brown is not going to play the percentage at the line, hoping he misses both of them or gets a one or two situations, it will help us a little bit.

Q. What do you anticipate, how tired do you think Shaq will be with the Wallace brothers banging around and others?

KOBE BRYANT: Well, he'll be pretty tired, he's running up and down the floor. Ben, he's very athletic and active so I'm sure they are going to try to wear Shaq down a little bit. I'm sure Shaq is up for the challenge. He's going to be ready. He'll push through it.

Q. Of all the teams you've played in the Finals, does this team, the Pistons, present anything different and unique problem-wise for you guys?

KOBE BRYANT: We don't really know them. Teams that we've faced in the past, we had some degree of familiarity with them and how they played and where they went to. This team is a little different. We really don't know them too well. So we're going to have to find of figure things out and go along.

Q. Shaq, the experts and the odds-makers said it will be an easy victory for the Lakers.

KOBE BRYANT: Did you call me Shaq? I couldn't believe you said that -- (laughter).

Q. Do you agree with that, and if you don't agree with it, why?

KOBE BRYANT: You know how I take those things, experts are saying that, you know, we are supposed to win this series, we're going to win it in four, five, six, whatever. I think there's a reason why everybody is saying that, and if we go out and execute and play the way that we should play, then it should be no reason why those predictions will not be accurate. But we have to play the we have to.

End of FastScripts...

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