'Tis the season of giving. So Dez Bryant has given Nikes to his receiving brothers, is giving credit to the retiring Kobe Bryant and hopes on Monday to give the Washington Redskins (a matchup detailed here in "Cowboys 100'') all he's got.
"It’s Jordans!'' Dez tells me of his Christmas gifts to the other receivers. "We rock Jordans . That’s what we do. Every year around this time it’s all about the elevens. That’s what it was. We got them.''
The basketball shoes fit a recurring theme for Bryant, who often tells me of his basketball prowess -- he swears, while grinning, that he has NBA-level talent -- and of course he's got a business and personal connection with Michael Jordan himself. And while Dez is an MJ imitator of sorts, the Cowboys All-Pro receiver is also an admirer of a basketball player even more famous for emulating Jordan.
Yes, it's Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. As I'm a Dallas Mavericks homer, Kobe tops my list of all-time "Love-to-Hate'' athletes. But for Dez? It's just love.
"Kobe, he’s just extremely amazing the way that he approaches the game, the way he goes about things,'' Dez tells me. "I honestly feel like the passion that I have – if this makes sense – he helped (me have) without me even speaking to him. But just the way he does things made me learn how to control it and view it as something positive ...
"I’ve always been a fan of Kobe ’s. It’s hard to believe (he's retiring from the Lakers after this year.) I tell you that. I can’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. I’m like, ‘Damn, because I love that dude.’
"I remember when they lost against the Celtics in the Finals in 2010, I almost cried with him. I did. I understood him. I’m like, ‘Man, that dude there really loves the game.’ That’s how I (am). Somehow, someway, I want to know what… I look at him and I just try to figure out what drives him and what keeps him going. I like to surround myself, well ... try to keep those kind of people in my circle in my career.''
Bryant's most immediate circle of friends is on the practice field, where he is laboring to get back to normal physically. I ask him about his dinged-up knee, ankle and foot.
"I’ll tell you this: This is the best I ever felt,'' he says. This is the best I ever felt (in two months) since I’ve been back playing. I’m still getting better. I’m getting better. I’m extremely… I’m more confident. I give a lot of credit to my teammates, especially this guy standing right next to me – Devin Street . We stay on one another and we try to keep a positive attitude and I think that goes a long way.''
Bryant isn't much interested in exchanging disses with Carolina's Josh Norman, who worked him over pretty well in last week's Panthers win at Dallas. He acknowledges that he "could have easily put this thing in the bag with the injuries that I’m dealing with,'' but he and the Cowboys aren't thinking that way, as evidenced by the decision to keep the injured Tony Romo on the active roster just in case this 3-8 team somehow gets all the dominoes to fall its way in a playoff chase. He says Thursday marks "my real, full practice'' and while it comes just in time for the holidays, we're about to see if it comes too late, starting against the Redskins on Monday.
“I’m always ready,'' Dez Bryant says. "I just got to take advantage of every opportunity. If it comes my way, I’m going to make the most of it.”