Lakers’ Bryant Passes Over Jordan for His Dream Pick-Up Team

Kobe Bryant passed over Michael Jordan for his ideal group to join in a pick-up basketball game, saying he’d take Magic Johnson as his backcourt mate along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird and Bill Russell.

Jordan, a five-time National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player who ranks third in league history in scoring, last month said his dream pick-up team would include Johnson, former Chicago Bulls teammate Scottie Pippen, James Worthy and Hakeem Olajuwon.

“That’s not a bad group,” Bryant, who plays the same shooting guard position as Jordan predominantly did, said in a Bloomberg Television interview to promote the new Kobe 9 shoes being released by Nike Inc. “It’s tough, because I’m liable to pick the same group that he picked.”

Bryant, 35, then selected a quartet of Hall of Fame players who between them collected 25 NBA championships and 17 MVP awards.

Like Bryant, Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson played for the Los Angeles Lakers, with Jabbar scoring the most career points in NBA history and Johnson ranking fifth all-time in assists.

Russell and Bird both played for the Boston Celtics, with Russell winning a record 11 titles from 1957-69 and Bird capturing three straight MVPs from 1984-86.

Bryant has yet to play for the Lakers this season as he continues to recover from a ruptured left Achilles tendon suffered in April. Bryant is practicing with the team, yet isn’t quite ready to return to game action.

The Lakers (9-9) visit the Sacramento Kings (4-12) tomorrow and Bryant said he expects to be wearing the latest version of his Nike sneaker line, though not in the game.

“Won’t be on a basketball court playing, but I’ll probably be wearing them, just lounging around,” Bryant said.

Big Step

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said yesterday that, while Bryant has made a “big step forward” and practiced hard for about 30 to 45 minutes, there’s been no determination on when he might return to game action.

“Practice is going to be different from a game, but he controls the game,” D’Antoni told reporters. “I didn’t see anything he couldn’t do. We’ll see.”

Bryant said he’s gotten into a routine since picking up his training, exercising for about an hour every morning before taking his kids to school and then heading to the team facility. He’ll then lift weights for an hour, spend about an hour shooting baskets before practice and then run the track following another post-practice shooting session. After therapy for his Achilles, Bryant said he ends the day with an ice bath.

After Retirement

The rigors of coming back from such an injury in his 18th NBA season have Bryant focused more than ever on life after his playing career. Bryant said he’ll remain involved with the Lakers when he retires as a player, yet might consider ownership of a team with the changes to the league’s labor agreement that have helped franchises reduce financial losses.

Bryant also has his own brand of products and said he’s most interested in helping to start a company and getting involved in design and marketing.

“More so than just partnering with an established brand and just lending your name to it,” Bryant said, without being specific. “I enjoy actually getting in the trenches and growing something from the beginning to the end.”

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