LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For all the NBA titles and All-Star selections he has piled up during an illustrious career, Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant wants his legacy to be judged on how he has impacted the sport’s future not the past.
The 37-year-old shooting guard has already established himself as one of the greatest players ever in the National Basketball Association and will be retiring from competition after the 2015-16 season, his 20th in the league.
“I try to look at my legacy and how it impacts the future of the game,” Bryant said on a conference call with international media on Monday. “I’m not looking at my legacy from the standpoint of where I fit in with the greatest of all time.
“For me, it’s a moot point and a shallow argument. I think the most important thing and the most beautiful thing is how does your legacy impact the generation of players to come?
“If what I’ve done and what I’ve stood for these 20 years has impacted the players today and the players tomorrow in a positive way, in a way they can then carry that legacy on themselves and impact the generation to follow, that’s much more significant than where I stand in history.”
A five-times NBA champion who has appeared in 17 All-Star games, Bryant has done it all on the court yet even as he prepares to take his final bow there are goals to be achieved.
Though slowed by age and a slew of injuries, Bryant has set his sights on making his competitive farewell at next year’s Rio Olympics.
“That’s something I am actually pressing for,” said Bryant, who won gold medals with the U.S. Olympic team in 2008 and 2012. “Being part of the Olympics is such a beautiful experience.
“I grew up overseas, I grew up in Italy, so to be able to see how basketball became such an international sport first-hand, it would be a beautiful thing personally to finish my career on an international stage.”
Bryant was sidelined for nearly eight months in 2013 with a torn Achilles’ tendon, then played just six games during the 2013-14 season because of a severe knee injury.
Last season, he played 35 games but increasingly suffered soreness in his knees, feet and back, yet he feels that overall he has enjoyed “a really good relationship” with the basketball gods.
“I think we understand each other really well,” laughed Bryant, who began his Lakers career as an 18-year-old in 1996.
“Our responsibility as athletes is to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves ... good, bad or indifferent.
“I am absolutely able to pivot and handle those situations. The injuries that I’ve had, I’ve always been able to look at those in a positive light and learn from those things, and also take advantage of opportunities that come as a direct result.”
Bryant is also looking forward to expanding his role as a mentor for emerging talent in the league while helping to grow the game among youth worldwide.
“I will always be around, not just from a Lakers standpoint but also for players around the league, just to be a mentor,” he said. “I’ve done that for a while now and I will continue to do that.
“I definitely plan on helping the game spread and helping kids all around the world understand kind of the metaphors that come along with the game ... everything that surrounds the game of basketball.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Steve Keating