Kobe Bryant: 'If basketball is the best thing I’ve done in my life, then I’ve failed'

Former NBA star Kobe Bryant talked about his evolution to greatness with Complex News. (AP)

Twenty years from now, there’s a chance Kobe Bryant could see his life as a failure.

Yes, that Kobe Bryant — the retired NBA star who is a five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star, and who will have both his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys retired by the Los Angeles Lakers. So how could Bryant think he’s failed at life?

To most, retiring after a Hall of Fame-worthy 20-year NBA career would be the pinnacle of their achievement. For Bryant, though, while he acknowledges his accomplishments during his playing career, he sees basketball as only part of his longer life journey.

He expanded on the topic in a Monday interview with rapper Kendrick Lamar with Complex News.

“Fast forward 20 years from now: If basketball is the best thing I’ve done in my life, then I’ve failed,” Bryant said. “It’s a very simple mission, very simple quest, very simple goal. These next 20 years need to be better than the previous 20. It’s as simple as that and that is what drives me.”

In the interview, Bryant also discussed his early desire for greatness, citing it was a “quest since Day 1.”

Bryant is the Lakers’ franchise leader in points (33,643), games played (1,346), field goals (117,827), 3-pointers (1,827), free throws (8,378) and steals (1,944), among many others.

Now out of basketball, Bryant is focused on dominating the business world. In 2014, Bryant became a major investor in a sports drink brand called BodyArmor. Since then, Bryant has been very hands-on in the business, being involved “in storytelling, writing or inserting his former athlete’s perspective on a product,” according to ESPN.

Bryant’s goal is to have BodyArmor top the sports drink industry, passing Gatorade and Powerade, by 2025. Bryant also just unveiled his newest signature basketball shoe — the Nike Kobe 360. 

And while in the process of building up his business portfolio and his dive into his next life, Bryant said his biggest challenge is letting go of the “Kobe Bryant: NBA basketball star” label that has been put on him for so long. He wants to start anew.

“My challenge is letting go of what was and focus on building what is to come and that is very, very hard,” Bryant said. “Twenty years a career. Legacy. Kobe Bryant. Things of that nature, the easy thing would be to build upon that still. The hard thing to do is to let that go, right, and now focus on building a studio, focus on building a content company, from books to films and everything in between. Focus on what is ahead and it takes a lot of bravery to be able to do that because what if that falls flat, then what? It is always easier to go with what is. But that ain’t what we do. We push forward and that is the biggest challenge ahead.”

In the interview with Complex News, Bryant also explained the difference in wearing No. 8 and No. 24 during his playing career, saying he was like “two different people” in the separate numbers.

On wearing No. 8 for the first 10 years of his career after entering the NBA straight out of high school, Bryant described his mindset as, “You’re literally headhunting everyone … It’s your time to establish yourself and say, you know, I belong here. As a result, everybody must go.”

On wearing No. 24 for the final 10 years of his career, Bryant said, “Then, when you hit a certain maturity level, which is where 24 was, it becomes less about your self-domination. It becomes, ‘How can I help others grow? How can I lead a group of guys to get to certain levels as a group?’ And that’s a really big distinction.”