Kobe Bryant has put up numbers this season that compare with the best of his… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
The message popped up on Twitter near midnight, not long after the Lakers lost to the Clippers.
"Thoughts of self doubt...Am I done? Is this how my career will end?? I REFUSE to give in to these thoughts. #strongwill #countonchallenges"
It was from Kobe Bryant. He didn't step back from it 12 hours later while talking to reporters after Lakers practice.
"Everybody has it. I'm human just like everybody else," he said. "I think the way I react to it is probably a little different than anybody else. I don't feed into it. I'm able to face it. I'm able to deal with it. I'm able to roll through it."
Bryant wasn't worried that teammates would see his vulnerable side.
"I think it's good for them, especially for them to know I have those moments as well," said Bryant, under contract with the Lakers for only one more season (and $30.5 million) after this one. "I'm sure they've had them. I don't know how they respond to them. In certain instances, maybe they let the self-doubt get the best of them. I refuse to let that happen."
The Lakers have been beyond vulnerable this season, their 107-102 loss Friday dropping them to 15-17 despite the addition this season of All-Stars Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to a roster that already included Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Bryant was surprisingly calm afterward and again a day later despite the late-night Twitter confession. He even took a trip down memory lane Saturday, painful as it might have been.
It went all the way back to the breakup with Shaquille O'Neal after the 2003-04 season.
"You're not going to find another duo like that ever," Bryant said. "There are other duos that are better than us. [Scottie] Pippen and [Michael] Jordan. But you'll never find a duo with two dominant personalities. Myself and Shaquille, that was kind of once in a lifetime."
So why couldn't it last a lifetime? Why did it end amid discord and chaos after the Lakers lost to Detroit in five games in the 2004 NBA Finals?
"I'm amazed it went as long as it did. That just wasn't going to last," Bryant said. "We're both alpha males. It just wasn't going to happen. What do you think would happen if you put Jordan with Wilt [Chamberlain]? Not going to happen."
Bryant admitted the Lakers left championships on the table after O'Neal was traded to Miami. But the breakup with O'Neal was inevitable, he said.
"The big thing for me was when he did an interview in ESPN magazine and he said that he felt like I couldn't win without him. I was fine up until that point," Bryant said. "I'd be damned if I retired and you [reporters] said I couldn't win without this guy. After that, the line was drawn in the sand."
Bryant said he deferred to O'Neal plenty of times while the Lakers won championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
"I sacrificed quite a bit in individual numbers and MVPs and NBA Finals [MVPs] and all this other stuff," Bryant said. "Phil [Jackson] used to come to us as a team and let me take over during the march to the Finals. Then in the Finals, which was mostly Eastern Conference teams that didn't have any centers, we went through Shaq. Those are things I was willing to sacrifice. And you have to have that sacrifice if that dynamic's going to work."
Meanwhile, Bryant continued to defend Gasol, who had two points and four rebounds in 27 minutes against the Clippers. Gasol would have sat out the entire fourth quarter again if Howard hadn't fouled out with 1:07 to play.
"The ball should be in Steve's hands and should be in Pau's hands," Bryant said. "[Nash] is an incredible facilitator. So is Pau. So we have the two best passers at their respective positions and they need to be the guys that have the ball the majority of the time. Myself and Dwight, we're finishers. I think that's how it should operate.
"I won two championships with [Gasol]. We won two championships playing through him, really. I know what he's capable of doing."
Bryant also defended Howard's play, which has lagged statistically compared to his years in Orlando.
"Coming off of that back surgery [in April] is tough. That's not something that we can just rely on or expect after such a significant surgery," Bryant said. "It's something that we'll have to kind of just manage around."
Howard injury update
Howard will be a "game-day decision" Sunday against Denver after sustaining a sprained rotator cuff in his right shoulder against the Clippers, he said.
Howard was fouled by Caron Butler but returned to the game after a Lakers timeout. He is averaging 17.4 points and 12 rebounds.
Sacre sent down
Reserve center Robert Sacre was assigned Saturday to the Lakers' Development League affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
He averaged 0.5 points and 0.8 rebounds in 13 Lakers games.