MINNEAPOLIS — I'm liking the laugh-out-loud guy sitting across from me at Starbucks, maybe as big a shock as Kobe Bryant and I getting together to sip vanilla lattes.
You know who I'm talking about: the Kobester, the Big Baby, the Ball Hog, the Tanker.
And here I am, the Hater.
"We're human beings, so we're complicated," Kobe says.
We have already spent the last hour discussing his obsessive intensity, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Shaquille O'Neal, his stifling inner circle and his belief he can pass the Lakers into the playoffs.
"I just happened to grow in front of everybody and a lot happened," Kobe says. "Maybe one day in like 15 years or so some people will come to realize we didn't quite get him when he was playing."
There was a time when we would talk regularly and with great respect. And there was a time when we would not, replaced later by a lot of growling and confrontation.
The shift continues, the Lakers at their worst but Kobe at his best. And so what's wrong with him? I begin.
"I find myself talking sometimes and I can't believe what I just said," he says with a hearty laugh. "Realistically I have only one year left, so I'm trying to enjoy myself."