Sunday, July 22, 2012

Chris Paul on Kobe's popularity: "a lot got to do with the fact he plays for Lakers"

They carry cameras and microphones, sprinting toward Kobe Bryant like Christmas shoppers who just spotted the "it" gift sitting on shelves.

Their questions come quickly, some in English, many in Spanish, and Bryant gives the perfect answer every time. Yes, Spain is an incredible team that can pose problems for the U.S. No, Pau Gasol isn't getting traded from the Lakers as long as he is there.

The only thing Bryant can't seem to explain to reporters is why he's so much more popular than his teammates on the Olympic basketball team.

"I don't know. I don't know where it comes from or how that happens," he said Saturday with a laugh. "It all started with the Dream Team in terms of basketball becoming so global. When I came into the NBA, I kind of inherited kind of the globalization of the game, and then having grown up overseas they really kind of laid claim to me because this is where I learned how to play the game, is overseas."

Chris Paul figures Bryant owes it to the way he's won and carried himself through the years -- along with one other thing.

"A lot of it's got to do, too, that he plays for the Lakers. I learned that, too, I learned that quick," Paul said. "Everywhere you go, shoot, the Lakers, they never play a road game. Only time they might play a road game now is in Oklahoma City."

As good as LeBron James, Kevin Durant or any other U.S. player is, none draws the attention of Bryant once the Americans leave home.

"Well, he's been doing it for 16 years in the NBA and in those 16 years the accomplishments are incredible. I mean, they're worthy of a top-five player in the history of the game, really," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "And then he's been so visible, been all over the world. In others words, he's traveled all over in the offseason. Even when we're on this tour, he's a guy that gets out, meets people. I think he has just made a commitment to being out there and as a result, you know, people follow him."

"If you would watch him work on defense, fighting through screens, he looks like a rookie trying to make a team and I think he likes that," Krzyzewski said. "It kind of juices him up, makes him have empathy for the guys who eventually will be playing with him on the Laker team and probably he's asking someone else to do that with the Lakers, because you couldn't do that and try to score 30 points a ballgame for 80-something games. There's no way. But here he does everything we ask him to do and more."

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