Kobe Bryant: 'Friends come and go but banners hang forever'

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant appeared at the BET Awards on Saturday for an interview with ESPN's Jemele Hill. During the conversation, he dropped what I would consider one of the Kobiest -- yes, that's totally a word -- quotes of all-time.

Rings > friends, everybody. Got it?

If you recall, this is not the first time Bryant has spoken about the sacrifices he's made, friendship-wise, to be the best player he can be. In an interview with Chuck Klosterman for GQ earlier this year, Bryant spoke candidly on the subject, admitting that his inability to be a great friend is a weakness.

So how much are you willing to give up? Have you given up the possibility of having friends? Do you have any friends?

I have "like minds." You know, I've been fortunate to play in Los Angeles, where there are a lot of people like me. Actors. Musicians. Businessmen. Obsessives. People who feel like God put them on earth to do whatever it is that they do. Now, do we have time to build great relationships? Do we have time to build great friendships? No. Do we have time to socialize and to hangout aimlessly? No. Do we want to do that? No.We want to work. I enjoy working.

So is this a choice? Are you actively choosing not to have friends? 

Well, yes and no. I have friends. But being a "great friend" is something I will never be. I can be a good friend. But not a great friend. A great friend will call you every day and remember your birthday. I'll get so wrapped up in my shit, I'll never remember that stuff. And the people who are my friends understand this, and they're usually the same way. You gravitate toward people who are like you. But the kind of relationships you see in movies—that's impossible for me. I have good relationships with players around the league. LeBron and I will text every now and then. KG and I will text every now and then. But in terms of having one of those great, bonding friendships—that's something I will probably never have. And it's not some smug thing. It's a weakness. It's a weakness.

Do you miss the idea of having a great friendship?

Of course. It's not like I'm saying, 'I don't need friends because I'm so strong.' It's a weakness. When I was growing up in Italy, I grew up in isolation. It was not an environment suited to me. I was the only black kid. I didn't speak the language. I'd be in one city, but then we'd move to a different city and I'd have to do everything again. I'd make friends, but I'd never be part of the group, because the other kids were already growing up together. So this is how I grew up, and these are the weaknesses that I have.

What he said on BET is funny because it's so on-brand that it feels almost like self-parody. "Friends come and go but banners hang forever" could go on a T-shirt. For me, though, what he said to GQ was far more illuminating. Reflective Kobe is the best Kobe, even if One-Liner Kobe gets more attention.

Kobe Bryant isn't here to make friends.  (USATSI)
Kobe Bryant isn't here to make friends. (USATSI)

CBS Sports Writer

James Herbert is somewhat fond of basketball, feature writing and understatements. A former season-ticket holder for the expansion Toronto Raptors, Herbert does not think the NBA was better back in the... Full Bio

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