I didn't hold up my end of the bargain in 2009 for the fans, for us, to meet in the Finals. I know the world wanted to see it. I wanted it, we wanted it. He held up his end and I didn't hold up my end, and I hate that. I hate that that didn't happen.
Obviously there was so much made about it, from commercials to media talk, to people just talking about the Lakers versus the Cavs, Kobe versus LeBron, Kobe versus LeBron, Kobe versus LeBron, but I couldn't do that to my teammates to kind of assume. That's not my job. I've seen the stat that since '07 either he has or I've been in the Finals, but we've never matched up. And that definitely sucks. Not only for us two being competitors, wanting to go against each other in the Finals, but also for the fans.
I mean, in high school I wore a nappy-ass Afro because of Kobe Bryant, because he wore it. I wanted to be just like him, man. And I always said my inspiration came from Michael Jordan, but I always thought Jordan was so out of this world that I could never get there. Kobe was someone that I just always kind of wanted to be like and play like.
It was someone that I always knew I had to be in the gym. I knew I had to be better because of Kobe Bryant. I knew he was in the gym and I knew he was working on his game. And I knew he was great. So every day that I didn't want to work out or every day I felt like I couldn't give more, I always thought of Kobe. Because I knew that he was getting better and I was like, 'Man, if you take a day off, he's going to take advantage of it. You cannot take a day off. You cannot take a day off.' And I used him for my motivation throughout my career because I always knew that he was working on something. So, that part will be missed a little bit.
I think it'll be very emotional and very fun. Obviously I want to win and he wants to win, too. But some things about that will be much bigger than a win or a loss… just to be able to see him and know it's his last go-round. I don't know. It won't really make sense next year when you see the Lakers and you don't see Kobe in a uniform. Twenty years, 13 out of my career. It's almost half of my life I've seen him in a Lakers uniform as a professional. It's going to be pretty weird.