No doubt Kobe Bryant

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KOBE Bryant at Lenovo’s “Walang Iwanan Manila” event. RICHARD A. REYES

Typhoon “Labuyo” almost zapped the spice out of Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant’s arrival in Manila. The heavy rains delayed Bryant’s flight from Beijing.

The nasty weather, however, didn’t stop the superstar’s fans from trooping to the Newport Performing Arts Theater to hear his inspirational talk. The talk and interaction with Bryant were a treat reserved exclusively for Lenovo smartphone users, of which Bryant is an endorser.

Onstage, he was surrounded by life-sized cutouts of himself. Offered a seat during the interview, he refused, with a smile.

“I’m OK, actually. My tendon feels really, really good,” said Bryant. The crowd erupted into cheers and screams at this statement.

Fans and pundits alike were wondering how Bryant will play next season after his Achilles tendon injury, which has sidelined many basketball stars.

Yet Bryant isn’t worried a bit. “I’m not only on track, I’m really ahead of schedule,” he said. “My strength is pretty remarkable in terms of where it is right now. I’m doing very well.”

Bryant has a proactive approach to his injury. “Speedy surgery. We went and had surgery the very next day, we have a great therapy staff who travel with me everywhere we go this summer. There’s also the strength and conditioning coach. I’ve just been training nonstop all summer long, so I think the combination of those three things is helping,” added Bryant.

His attitude about his injury helps fend off skeptics. “To me it means that if somebody’s doubting the fact that I can come back from this injury,  they had the same injury and situation; they quit. They thought they wouldn’t be able to come back from it, that’s what it says to me; when I hear that, I see signs of weakness. So, by me coming back and me being stronger than I was before, hopefully I  will help the doubters see that you can actually accomplish things that you don’t think you can accomplish.”

Bryant’s coming to Manila coincided with Gilas Pilipinas’ fresh silver victory in the Fiba Asia Championship. Inevitably, he was asked for advice on how our boys could take the victory a step further once in  Spain.

BRYANT delivers inspirational talk to fans. RICHARD A. REYES

“You just continue to play together. It’s not the strength of an individual, (basketball) it’s a team sport, it’s how well those individuals blend as a team,” he said.

Constant communication is also essential, Bryant pointed out. “I think when that happens, you can accomplish something truly special. But you have to be able to do it as a team. More important than anything else is the teamwork, ’cause a team can always hide whatever weakness an individual has, but if the team doesn’t know what your weaknesses are because you’re not communicating them, then they have no way to support you.”

Kobe puts a premium on team communication. He also sees the value of interacting with fans on social media.

“The most important thing about social media is transparency, so you can’t shy away from addressing tough issues, you can’t shy away from being vulnerable, you have to allow the people to see exactly what’s going on inside your head, inside your heart. You just go out there and say what you feel. Some people like it, some people don’t, but that’s social media,” said Bryant.

His favorite Lenovo smartphone is the K900, which has helped him with social network. “The quad band is sensational, the camera system is incredible, and since I’m always on social media, I’ve become more and more adept at taking pictures,” he said.

“The partnership with Lenovo was an easy decision for me. I like innovative things; I like things that challenge boundaries, and hooking up with Lenovo made complete sense because we have the same philosophy,” he added.

While Bryant is no machine, he is so thorough at trying to improve himself, to innovate on the hard court.

“That’s the biggest thing: You’re constantly learning. As a kid, when you want to accomplish something, then you have a setback, you have to learn how to get through that. As you grow older you continue to have setbacks, you continue to figure out how to get through them. It’s the same thing with me, I’ve been fortunate enough to win five championships; then all of a sudden this injury happens and I’m in a position again where I find myself doubting. That’s when you have to look in the mirror, that’s when you figure things out and you have to push through, that’s what I’ve done.

“It’s the curiosity of how to improve, how to get better. I don’t look at it as, ‘This is what I’ve accomplished,’ I look at it as, ‘How can I be better?  How can I improve in the game of basketball?’ If you have that constant curiosity, you’ll just find yourself getting better and better,” said Bryant.

So, what’s next for him?

“I wouldn’t mind skydiving. I’ll keep that on hold until I decide to retire,” he said with a laugh. “When I hang them up, then I will try the skydiving thing, make sure to have my Lenovo so I can record every falling moment.”

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