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Kobe the Joker

Hey, he wears purple just like the villain from Batman, and he apparently isn't always serious.

As reported by the OC Register's Kevin Ding:

He even tried Monday to douse his only existing brushfire by calling his interest in leaving the Lakers for a $50 million European payday "a joke."

Bryant, who can opt out of his contract at season’s end, said he just blurted out the answer that he’d be interested because he had told USA Basketball teammate – and Nike sponsorship brother – LeBron James not to worry about fielding any dangerous questions during their joint news conference at the Olympics.

"Somebody throws us this question about playing overseas," Bryant said. "I don’t want him to answer it. He’s a young kid; I don’t want him to take the controversial stuff. I said, ‘Well, if a team throws us $50 million, then we’ll all go.’ …

"It’s just something that was a joke for us, and people took it and ran with it or whatever. That’s fine. Everybody needs to banter about something."

Nice to see that the blogosphere (and perhaps the rest of the media, too) is first in the Mamba's heart.

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Of course, the cat is out of the bag now, and whether Kobe was joking or not, the deep pockets of certain overseas owners will likely keep this a hot topic through the summer of 2010 at the very least.

That said, there is something that always amuses me about seeing a more relaxed side of one of the world's most enigmatic basketball player.  For all the scowling and the killer instinct bit on the floor, it's fun to see a guy like Kobe act off the court like another happy dude who gets paid to play a boy's game. 

Meanwhile, Ding reports that Bryant is in excellent shape and feeling good about the prospects of a title run for his Lakers this year.  No matter last year's results in the Finals (was that fun or what?), this is not a team to be taken lightly.  Just the first of many reminders of that. 

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