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First Down

- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 8, 2008

EXCERPT FROM OUTLET, OUR NBA BLOG ON WASHINGTONTIMES.COM

BOSTON - Regardless of how much Kobe Bryant says he just wants to be himself, the comparisons to Michael Jordan never end. You wonder why, and it's because Kobe is constantly so Jordanesque.

Whether he's on the court, hitting turn-around jumpers that are so textbook Jordan that Bryant has every twitch down pat, or whether he's sitting behind a microphone doing interviews with the same voice inflections, Kobe Bryant embodies Michael Jordan.

And like Jordan before him, Kobe Bryant is extremely business savvy. Brilliant in fact. The way he represents the companies that have given him monstrous endorsement deals is subtle in a way, but at the same time it's in-your-face-don't-forget. The Lakers take the practice court in team gear - with tiny Adidas logos and trademark stripes here and there - and Kobe comes out in Nike threads that sport the Lakers' color scheme. Now, he does wear his practice jersey when necessary, but the Nike swoosh is always present. Shorts, shoes ...

Everyone else has come to the podium for interviews, they're either still in their team's practice uniform, or have thrown on a team sweatshirt or jacket or whatever. Not Kobe. He changes into a snazzy Nike warm-up suit or another pair of Nike shorts and shirt. He takes his seat, takes a swig of Vitaminwater, screws the lid back on the bottle. Then he places his drink a few inches away from the microphone - consciously or subconsciously - so the TV cameras can pick up a few more images of the sports drink before zooming in on Kobe's face.

Its funny because Kevin Garnett has a deal with Gatorade, but this week he has come to the podium with either no drink or with a bottle of water that has no label on it.

Kobe Bryant. A walking, talking nonstop commercial.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Kobe Bean Bryant, according to Forbes Magazine, made $33,718,750 in 2007 - $20.9 million of which came on endorsements.

HE SAID WHAT?

"I don't know if the angels visited him at halftime or in that timeout period that he had or not, but he didn't even limp when he came back out on the floor." - Lakers coach on Paul Pierce's injury and comeback in Game 1 of the NBA Finals