The Washington Times - June 7, 2008, 03:58PM

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 if he’s sitting behind a mic 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 sits 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 non-stop commercial.

Kobe also has his teammates helping him in the marketing. Lakers Vladimir Radmanovic, Ronny Turiaf, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and DJ Mbenga are all rocking a version of the Nike Zoom Kobe III’s, which look like this and  this.

When asked about having teammates that wear his shoes, Kobe smiled and said, “Well, they all have an interest in jumping over cars. It intrigues them, so they wear the shoes.” That was in reference to the Nike commercial in which Kobe pulls on his Kobe III’s and then jumps over a sportscar that speeds towards him.

Once the laughter subsided, Kobe was asked, “Is it nice to see them wearing those?”

His reply: “Yeah, it is. What we try to do is just make sure it’s extremely comfortable for the other players that want to wear them. We try to make the best shoe possible, best shoe on the market, then other players tend to enjoy them.”

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.