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Los Angeles Zoo employees compare Kobe Bryant's play to various animal behaviors

February 25, 2010 |  5:48 pm


Beyond the usual, "I'm fine," "It's OK," and "It is what it is," statements Lakers guard Kobe Bryant typically makes regarding his injuries, he recently added an extra wrinkle. "I feel like a gazelle," he said Monday when he knew for sure he was going to return to the lineup after missing the previous five games because of a left ankle sprain and sore tendon.

He'll still be known as the Black Mamba in the minds of Lakers fans, but Bryant's "gazelle" comment raised questions (at least in my mind) as to what other animals could rightfully be associated with Bryant.

I'm by no means an animal expert, and the grades in my biology classes prove it. But I figured I'd contact people who are to lend their insight. Los Angeles Zoo spokesperson Jason Jacobs provided me a rundown on the different behaviors of certain animals and Dana Brown, director of human resources at the L.A. Zoo and a Lakers fan, explained how they are comparable to Bryant's play.  

Tiger: JJ: Tigers have to be self sufficient. They have their own territory and they hunt for themselves. They have to be dependent on themselves. They're camouflaged. No two Tigers striped patterns are alike.  

How Bryant is like a tiger: DB: You don't find a lot of Tigers and you don't find a lot of Kobes. For the solitary animals that Tigers are, Kobe, while popular and widely recognizable, he's not really all that social. You don't see him on the social scene. He's not the most social person there is. He is sort of predatory. He's slow and calculating and then he jumps at it.

Mambas: JJ: Mambas are venomous species of snakes found in Africa. There's two types. The green mamba and the black mamba. They are very fast snakes and very deadly. When you deal with them in a zoo situation, you take every safety precaution to transfer them. Black mambas are the largest venomous snakes in Africa and their average length is around eight to nine feet. Some can exceed 12 feet. 

How Bryant is like a mamba: DB: He is definitely one of the most deadly players out there. When Kobe is in the game, somebody is going down.

Gazelles: JJ: They're related to antelopes. They're not heavy bodied animals. They're very fast. They're oftentimes what you see on National Geographic documentaries being chased down by a cheetah. They're thin, tall, fast and graceful.

How Bryant is like a gazelle: DB: His gracefulness. I would liken it to the way he handles the ball and the gracefulness with the way he moves down the court. It's very deliberate, yet graceful. When I picture him running down the court and making a finger-roll layup, that's what comes to my mind.


Pronghorns: JJ: They're the fastest land animal in North America. The type we work with is an endangered species and they live in the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. They can cruise at speeds of 40 to 60 miles per hour for one hour or more.

How Bryant is like a pronghorn: DB: Kobe recognizes his role as a leader on the team. He takes that very seriously and realizes he has to be able to sustain himself for the duration of the game, if need be. I sort of see him pacing himself for the majority of the game. When he needs to turn it up, he's able to do that for however length of time he needs to do it. 

Any wild animal: JJ: In the wild, if you had any injuries, you would have to mask it. The lion preys on the old, the weak and the young and the sick. If you are any of those four in the wild, you easily could become prey to something. Wild animals quite often try to mask any type of injury. They don't want to show any outward signs that a predator can pick up on. If they do, they'll be lunch or dinner.

How Bryant is like a wild animal: DB: When Kobe is talked to about his injuries, he'll usually say, 'He's ready to go now.' He'll say, 'I'm working through it. I'm doing great.' He's giving the outward appearance like a wild animal. He doesn't want people to know that he's injured.

Beaver: JJ: They're building dams. Sometimes when they build dams, it floods other animals out of their houses. The term 'busy as a beaver' is a cliche, but it has some truth to it. They are busy building their dams and stockpiling their food for the winter."

How Bryant is like a beaver: DB: When I think about his work ethic, I think about all of these roles that he plays up to and including of masking his injuries and being there for his teammates and all the preparation he puts in practice and in games. 

Feel free to add your own comparisons in the comments section below.

--Mark Medina

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Photo: A night after hitting the game-winner with mere seconds on the clock, Kobe Bryant missed a potential game-tying shot late in the Lakers' 101-96 loss to the Mavericks on Wednesday night at American Airlines Center. Credit: Matthew Emmons/US Presswire.

Photo: Pronghorn. Credit: Jamie Pham/Los Angeles Zoo.