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Kobe Bryant Opens Up on Retirement, Phil Jackson, Dismissed Sexual Assault Charges and Shaquille O'Neal

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I recently sat down with five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant. The interview is for a new episode of In Depth. In his only extensive interview leading up to the 2012 London Olympics, the Los Angeles Lakers' All-Star opens up about the likelihood he will retire soon. Bryant speaks extensively about how his dismissed 2003 sexual assault charges impacted him personally. The former Most Valuable Player also talks about his feud with Shaquille O'Neal and his relationship with former Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

Highlights:

Kobe Bryant discusses the possibility of retiring after the 2013-14 season: "I've been playing for 17 years now, so next year will be my 17th and then, when I'm 35, it will be my 18th year in the league. I mean that's a long time to be playing. It will be the last year in my contract, so I don't know. I don't know if I'll play any longer than that."
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In July 2003, Kobe Bryant was arrested and charged with sexual assault. The charges were later dismissed. Bryant speaks about the effect the charges had on him: "There's times where it just seems like days are just endless, like this is never going to end. This feeling, this dark time is just never going to be over... " Bryant also addresses how the situation may have had a positive impact on him: "Once you go through something like that, you can't help but be different. You can't help but have a better sense of who you are."

Kobe Bryant shares that he has had conversations with NFL player Ray Lewis who had murder charges against him dismissed: "A lot of -- other players can't relate to that sort of stuff, to that type of pressure. That's real pressure. That's life pressure. It's not hitting the game winning shot. If you make it, you win. If you miss it -- no. That's not pressure."

Kobe Bryant tells what he learned from the whole experience: "It just really teaches you how to let go and how to trust and not try to control everything." Bryant discusses how he was able to avoid having the situation affect his basketball game: "I'm not going to stop playing. I'm not just because you guys think I should stop playing, just because you guys think that I won't perform as well. I'm going to show you."
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While the Lakers won three consecutive championships between 2000 and 2002 and made the finals in 2004, stars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were feuding over their respective roles on the team. Bryant, who was eligible to become a free agent after the season, says that it was an untenable situation: "It just wasn't going to work, so no matter what happened, even if we had won that championship... me being a free agent, there was just no way."It came down to Kobe or Shaq: "There's things that I wanted to do with my career and take my career to another level, that I was just incapable of doing as long as we were playing together. "
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During the 2008 NBA Finals, the Lakers were down three games to two against the Boston Celtics. Kobe Bryant shares that he began to question himself: "I was like, 'Man, I'm never going to win another championship. Maybe everybody was right. I can't win without Shaq. This is my one opportunity, and I blew it.'"
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During the 2003-04 season, Lakers coach Phil Jackson's relationship with Kobe Bryant began to deteriorate. Bryant acknowledges that there were several challenges that Jackson had to confront, one being the dynamic between Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal: "Him having to deal with that relationship and kind of keeping me at arm's distance so that, in turn, it can bring him closer to Shaq... " Bryant also shares that he and Jackson had very different communication styles: "I said, 'Phil, if you want me to do something, just tell me.'... He kind of likes subtly slipping messages in there. Where, for me, it's like just tell me what it is you want. Don't insult my intelligence by trying to backdoor in there."
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Kobe Bryant on the best advice he has received from legendary player Michael Jordan: "To be me... 'Don't change who you are. Play your game, and everybody will adjust to that but you have to be yourself.'"
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Kobe Bryant discusses the USA basketball team's chances in the upcoming Summer Olympics in London: "If we don't win the gold medal, it's going to be very difficult for us to come back to this country. ... It just seems like there's so many expectations upon us." When asked about the possibility of not winning gold, Bryant replies: "You don't let that enter into your mind. You just go out there and play for that gold."
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Kobe Bryant discusses growing up the son of an NBA player and getting his competitive nature from his mom. Watch clip:

Kobe Bryant on growing up in Italy, why he never heard of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson contracting HIV. Watch clip:

Kobe Bryant shares his sacrifices and dedication to the game and how aging has affected his workouts. Watch clip:

Kobe Bryant tells about scoring 63 points at 8 years old and scoring 81 points in an NBA game. Watch clip:

Kobe Bryant shares why he formed his foundation and how he is helping the homeless of LA. Watch clip:

Kobe Bryant discusses how small changes to his shoes impact his game and input he has in creating his shoes. Watch clip:

Kobe Bryant answers viewer questions about what inspires him and how young kids can improve in basketball. Watch clip:

Watch full Kobe Bryant episode (above clip links contain content from full episode and also bonus content unable to make full episode due to time constraints):

Graham Bensinger's Facebook page is facebook.com/GrahamBensinger and his website is GrahamBensinger.com. Follow Graham on Twitter @GrahamBensinger. Email Graham at Graham@TheGBShow.com.

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