Earlier this year, Kobe Bryant told GQ's Chuck Klosterman that "a 'great friend' is something I will never be," because he's so intensely focused on his own obsessive and single-minded pursuit of his goals that he'll "never remember" stuff like calling you on your birthday. A few months later, he clarified his remarks in an interview with ESPN's Jemele Hill by way of an amazing pullquote: “I meant that friends can come and go, but banners hang forever.”
[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
Evidently, that edict applies to more than just the 16 championship banners that the Los Angeles Lakers have hung from the rafters at Staples Center, including the five — count 'em, five — that Bryant himself has had a hand in hanging.
On Friday night, Kobe made a special appearance on the Staples stage to recognize pop star Taylor Swift — who was in the midst of performing the fifth show of a nine-night residency — for having set a new record with her 16th sold-out show at Staples, the most sellouts by an artist in the arena's history:
"It's going to hang here forever," Bryant told Swift as the L.A. crowd roared. I mean, obviously: this man is very serious about banners.
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) August 22, 2015
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) August 22, 2015
On the topic of Kobe's seriousness when it comes to banner-hanging, it's also worth noting that the Mamba marked another milestone this weekend: the first time he's put shots up since undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a torn right rotator cuff back in January:
"First day back on the court shooting!" wrote Bryant in the caption of his smiling selfie. "Bout damn time!!
A return to shooting work represents just another step in the long journey of recovering from Bryant's third straight season-ending injury, but it's an important step, and suggests that Kobe's rehabilitation remains on schedule. After Bryant's surgery, the Lakers set forth a nine-month timeline for his return to the court; L.A. opens the 2015-16 NBA season by hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves on Oct. 28, exactly nine months after the procedure.
It remains to be seen whether Bryant will be all the way back and at 100 percent by the time reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins and 2015 No. 1 overall draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns come calling, or whether Kobe will remain a potent enough offensive force to team with No. 2 pick D'Angelo Russell to "shock da world" by reversing the Lakers' two-year downturn and returning to the playoffs in his 20th season. For now, though, it's enough to know that Bryant's celebrating his 37th birthday by getting back to doing what he loves most — shooting — and that, for one night at least, the Lakers got back to the business of hanging banners.
- - - - - - -